Dragonfly Words

Writer’s Voice: What if it just isn’t very good? | August 4, 2010

How do writer’s deal with voice? I’ve been reading a lot on voice lately (mostly in attempts to solve the never-ending problem of which to use – 1st of 3rd person?). While I did not come up with a definitive answer to my question, I did come across a lot of interesting articles about voice.

So what is voice anyway? To sum up all of the definitions I found, voice is the personal flavor you add to your writing; it is how you inject your own personality into your writing. Of course, this can be problematic. What if your personality is boring? The simplest solution would be to quit writing, but that is easier said than done. For those of us who love to write, giving it up is no small feat. So can you make your voice more engaging?

The good news is, yes! In this blog post on Inky Fresh Press, 5 tips are listed to help improve your writing voice:

  • Pay attention to the voice in the books you enjoy reading. Describe the voice.
  • Write from a different perspective – instead of writing a scene from the point of view of your protagonist, try writing it from the point-of-view of the antagonist
  • Read your work out loud. Does it sound natural? Does it sound like you? Why or why not?
  • Write a scene for a different audience
  • Write letters to friends. I find that writing journal entries and rereading them to see voice helps too.

But why is it so hard to find your voice? In a blog post on Rants & Ramblings, Rachelle Gardner discusses the reasons we find voice so hard. A writer’s voice is a personal thing. It is who you are, what makes you unique. But it is so easy to try to be something you are not. We spend so much time putting up a front to our friends, coworkers, strangers we see on the street, and even our families that it is easy to get lost and forget who we really are.

Do you find it hard to stay true to your writing voice? Do you catch yourself copying the voices of successful writers?

Check out this additional post from Inky Fresh Press: What is Writing Voice?


1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for adding your voice to the ongoing discussion about writer’s voice.

    In your post, you said about the writer’s voice that it “is the personal flavor you add to your writing; it is how you inject your own personality into your writing.” To an extent, I agree with you. I may define personality somewhat differently than you do, however.

    While I agree that the writer’s personality comes through in writing and thereby creates a unique voice, this is how I detect a writer’s personality through their writing:

    1. Sentence construction. Are sentences long, short, with or without adequate punctuation, made up of several phrases? Does the writer consistently begin sentences with introductory phrases, or mix it up? Ask a lot of questions? Use incomplete sentences, and so on.

    2. Word choice. Does the writer consistently use simple words with clear meanings, or 3, 4, and 5 syllable words that readers have to use a dictionary to understand? Or, does the writer use wrong words that are distracting or confusing? A lot of adjectives and adverbs, or strong verbs?

    3. Is the writing active (active voice instead of passive voice), direct, and immediate?

    4. Is the writer’s voice conversational, intimate, detached, aloof, confused, argumentative, or does it have an “I told you so” quality, etc.?

    5. Does the writer present information in a linear or circular manner, or something in between?

    6. Does the writer know and apply the rules of good grammar and punctuation?

    7. Does the writer care about the reader’s experience? (Believe me, that is easier to detect than many other things about writing.)

    In fiction writing, the author’s voice will be made apparent in the story’s setting; character names, ages, and actions; in the theme and plot development; in the pace of the action, and so forth.

    I will say–as a writer and an editor–that writer’s can make their voices more engaging by learning the rules of writing (and only then, learning how to bend the rules). Caring about the reader can be a very engaging quality.

    I also agree with the advice about reading work out loud because doing so can reveal a lot of weaknesses in writing. But unless we want all of our writing to read and sound like blog posts, then we have to put more thinking and less talking into our writing.

    Sharon Leah

    Comment by Sharon Leah — August 28, 2010 @ 16:51

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