I want you to take a second and look at your bookshelf. Is there a particular author's name that you see again and again? If you look at mine, you're going to see a ton of books by Jodi Picoult, Jenny Han, Suzanne Young, JoJo Moyes, Danielle Steel, and most recently Kristen Martin.
Why? The simple answer is that I've fallen in love with their writing voice. Writing voice is defined as an author's style, theme, and tone. It's powerful because it's an author's unique way of looking at the world and that can be an exciting, yet frightening, concept for an author to grasp. However, it is something that we, as authors, need to discover within ourselves because it is what helps readers connect with us and keep coming back for every book we put out into the world.
The good news is this process isn't complicated. In fact, it can be fun. We already have a writing voice buried deep inside every one of us. We just have to be comfortable enough to embrace it, strengthen it, and share it with the world. Here's how:
- Write: Let's start with something you're already doing as a writer. Writing. Take a minute and write something just for fun. There are no rules. Write what you want for as long as you want. Then, I want you to walk away from it. Don't edit it. Don't read over it. Just walk away for at least five hours. When you come back to it, I want you to read it and then ask yourself the following questions: Do I honestly like what I've just written? Is it something I would read? Did I enjoy writing it? If I were to craft a novel from what I just wrote would I be a little terrified to put it out into the world? If you answered no to one of these questions, then I challenge you to go back and write some more because you aren't digging into your writing voice enough. If you don't like it, don't enjoy it, don't want to read it, or aren't just a little bit terrified to put it out into the world then why are you writing it? Try something new. Write in a different voice. Write as a character that is opposite to you. Try a different genre. Write, and keep writing, until your true self, or your inner writing voice, breaks through all the noise and shines through.
- Read: This is also something you're already doing, but I want you to do it more. Read genres you already love and ones you have yet to discover. Read fiction and non-fiction. Take some time, maybe a month, and challenge yourself to read five books by different authors and in different genres that you've never read before. Then, take some time to reflect. What did you like about these books? What didn't you like? How are these books different? How are they alike? What aspects of these books would you change or improve? Take the authors whose books you already love and enjoy. What genre do they write? Why do you like their books so much? How do they do what they do? How can you borrow from their voice to enhance and strengthen yours?
- Self-Analyze: Ultimately, the key to discovering your writing voice is to discover yourself. How would you describe yourself? What do you value most in life? Where did you grow up? What are your beliefs? What is your passion? What's one thing you would change about the world? How do you speak? What have you experienced thus far in life? Where do you work? What are inspires you? What scares you? Don't forget to think about writing when you do this too. Why do you write? What genre(s) do you love best? What author(s) do you admire? Do you prefer to write in a specific tense or point-of-view? What makes you, you?
If you take away anything from this exercise, it should be that deep within us we all have a writing voice. To discover it, we need to continue to do the things we're already doing such as writing and reading, but also self-analyze. This way we will continue to strengthen and refine our writing voice while staying true to ourselves and writing what we want to write the way we want to write it.