17 September 2012

Your Natural Voice as a Writer

Clues From How the Caged Bird Sings

A long time ago, I met a young woman and in our first conversation, it came out that she sang with a choir. I told her I couldn't sing, and I confided that I would love to be able to do it. I never forgot her reply.

—Chances are you can sing, first you have to find your range.

Every Writer Has a Voice. Your voice, as a writer, is the style that makes your writing unique. It is the language you use and how you make your point. It's what your readers hear and how it makes them feel.

Discover Your Voice. Just as you have a natural speaking voice, you have a writing voice that belongs only to you. It is shaped by your personality, beliefs and interests.

What you read has a great influence on your writing voice. The genres and authors you enjoy the most are a good indication of the direction where your voice lies. Use your reading to discover, explore and develop your voice.

Become familiar with your voice to put yourself in the best position for training.

Train Your Voice. Writers train by writing. Consider each piece of writing you create as a training exercise. The more you write, the more adept you will become at controlling your voice and the more comfortable you will become using it.

Aim to master your writing voice like a musician masters an instrument.

Your Voice Has a Range. At times, you will have to modify your writing style to suit a particular task. A romance novel, an article for Seventeen Magazine and a query letter each requires a different tone of voice.

Certain types of writing will be outside your range. Your comfort zone and your range are closely aligned. You can expand your range with training and passion.

Outside Influences Can Play a Role. A writer's voice can also be shaped by his social environment and life experiences. Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy both wrote in Victorian-era England and their writings show it.

Mark Twain wrote about life in the United States and it's no wonder his voice is very different from that of Charles Dickens even though both use humor and satire in their writings.

Embrace Your Voice. Your voice is an asset. Once you have an idea where your voice lies, embrace it. Celebrate it. Run with it. Write with style. Your voice is your style.

We are all blessed with a distinctive voice. Even if you model your writing after another's, it will come out in your own voice.

Don't Be Afraid of the Audience.
Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

Be Yourself. It's a lot easier to be who you are if you're comfortable in your own skin. Allow your writing to give voice to your inspirations. Be authentic.

Put Your Heart Into It. Give every piece you create your best effort. You'd notice if your favorite author, or favorite poet, made a halfhearted effort. The wellspring of great writing is an authentic voice that speaks with passion.

         Have you found your voice? Who influenced you?

Illustration: John James Adubon

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