As writers, it’s our writing voice that keeps our readers coming back. It’s what makes us stand out from other writers, what connects us to our readers, and how we express to our readers what we’re all about.
The best writing voices make it seem effortless, like they’re sat across from you drinking coffee. Their voices are clear, concise, and friendly.
Whether you’re writing fiction or creative nonfiction (including blogs, copy, and even some newspaper articles), you shouldn’t try to sound too academic or verbose. While these traits are fine in corporate or academic writings, they’re the opposite of what your average reader is looking for.
The average attention span these days is just eight seconds, so if you want people to keep coming back, they need to be able to digest your writing quickly and easily.
But how do you get to that point?
How to find your writing voice
It really is that simple.
You don’t get better at playing the violin without practising. You don’t become a safer driver without practising. Writing is no different.
According to Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours—or ten years—to become the best at your craft. Some studies have disputed this, but his suggestion still stands: you won’t get better without practise.
Show your writing to others
If you write inside a bubble, it’s difficult to learn what you’re doing right or wrong.
And, while writing is subjective, there are rules. Rules on style, content, expectations from certain genres, etc. Until you know what these rules are, you cannot subvert or challenge them.
The people you show your writing to make all the difference. Showing them to your friends and family is great if you want a pat on the back or an ego boost. Showing them to those outside of your comfort zone—people on the internet, from a writing group, a professional editor, etc—is how you’ll improve.
Read, read, read!
I continue to hark on about how reading is important to writers because it’s THE most important thing we need to do.
Think about what your favourite authors do and why you connect with their writings. How does their writing make you feel?
As Maya Angelou once said:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Whether you’re new to the craft or an old hat, this still applies.
It’s the way you put the words together on the page that allows people to make a connection.It's the way you put the words together on the page that allows people to make a connection. Click To Tweet
Why not try reading something you wouldn’t usually read and trying to emulate its style?
Romance is great for writing about emotional connections between characters. Crime is good for plots. Fantasy is good for world-building. Young adult books are great for tightening your writing.
Experiment with different styles
Don’t just write inside your comfort zone. Write in different genres, for different audiences, in different mediums. Write as many different things as you possibly can. As soon as you think you’ve written it all, think again.
Mediums and genres to challenge yourself with:
- Creative nonfiction about a topic that’s close to your heart
- A factual, journalistic piece that’s close to your heart
- A sonnet
- A haiku
- A limerick
- A repeating-form poem (rondel, roundel, etc)
- Stand-up comedy script
- Political speech
It’s especially worth trying things like haikus, political speeches, or journalistic pieces if you don’t write in those areas. The further you push yourself outside or your comfort zone, the more you’ll learn.
Some suggestions of audiences to challenge yourself with:
- Children’s fiction
- Young adult fiction
- Romantic fiction readers
- Epic fantasy readers
- Left-wing newspaper audience
- Right-wing newspaper audience
Decide why you want to write
Why we write can have a huge impact on our writing.
Do you want to inform people of something? Motivate them? Inspire them? Educate them? Tell a story?
Maybe it’s a combination, like this blog.
Make a list of what you want to achieve with your writing. Is there anything that stands out or that you’re most passionate about?
Even as a fiction writer you can still motivate, inspire, educate, and offer commentary on the political landscape.
Know your audience
Who are you writing for?
Are you writing for your younger self? For your loved ones?
Be as specific with your target audience as you possibly can be. Create a fake profile, as if you were creating a character for a story. Use this persona to tailor your writing to this person. Refer back to it when you get stuck.
It sounds so obvious, doesn’t it?
But being yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sometimes we don’t even know who we are. We can spend our whole lives trying to find it out.
So if we don’t know who we are, how do we be ourselves in our writing?
It’s simple: be honest.
Be honest with yourself, and be honest with your readers. The more honest you are, the more your readers will respect that.
Readers aren’t dumb: they can tell when you’re not being honest with them or you’re hiding things from them.Readers aren't dumb: they can tell when you're hiding things from them. Click To Tweet
If you’re not interested in getting into religious discussions with your readers, don’t write about why you are or aren’t part of a particular religion. Steer clear of topics that make you uncomfortable or where you feel the need to gloss over details. That way, you’re still yourself without hiding anything.
Over to You
How did you find your author voice? Are you still finding it? Share your stories on finding your author voice below!