Are you taking the plunge into National Novel Writing Month this year? Maybe you’ve participated in past years or plan to in the future. There’s something to be said for testing one’s writing mettle by writing 50,000 words in a month. It can be a great exercise in finding your writing voice. The less a writer thinks about how their writing sounds, the more it will sound like them. It goes without saying that a little advance planning can make the month’s progress more fruitful. After all, writing nearly 1,700 words a day leaves practically no time for brainstorming or editing.
If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, I would like to encourage you to sign up to get a motivational power-up from NaNoInspo. You’ll receive inspirational emails and links to blog posts throughout the month to add fuel to your writing output. Even better, NaNo winners will receive prizes! Martin McConnell writes prodigiously, and he’s extremely motivating.
Finding Your Writing Voice
An authentic writing voice draws readers in and keeps them coming back for more. Voice is akin to personality. It makes the writer’s presence on the page distinct from countless others. A strong voice does not draw attention to itself by shouting, but by being comfortable in its own skin. Just to be clear, voice is so much more than a writer’s style—unique word choices, sentence structures, and punctuation habits.
Read and Write. A Lot
Voice is an author unafraid of saying what must be said. But how to best go about finding your writing voice? Read and write. A helluva lot. Period. Voice emerges over time and continually evolves. So stop worrying if you sound like someone else. Do however worry about writing with conviction.
On the one hand, uncovering your writing voice is indeed about learning to be true to yourself so readers will connect with that honesty. But that’s only half of the voice equation. Think of the famous line from Hamlet when Polonius advises his son Laertes, “To thine own self be true.” He’s telling his son to stay true to his own interests because that is what truly allows a person to be better-equipped to take care of others.
In other words, write for yourself and to figure out the message that matters most to you, and your principles will draw the right readers who will feel taken care of by your message. It’s all a bit circular…
Keep Pressing Forward
Voice also comes into play when creating a fictional persona. The thought and speech patterns of any given character must ring true to that character’s background. Many authors write detailed character sketches even though the material will never appear in the novel. Writing and the process of developing a strong voice is a recursive process. The beautifully addictive cycle never ends.
Voice does not exist in a vacuum. Writers assume different voices depending on the writing task. The intended subject and audience play a part in shaping the ultimate form a message takes. In the composition field, this is known as the rhetorical triangle. While a strong voice may come more naturally and quickly to some, all writers can find their voice if they keep pressing forward—page, after page, after page.
Be Gloriously You
Go forth and kick ass with your writing voice. Take no prisoners. Be authentically and gloriously you. Aim to let your words become somebody’s literary drug of choice.
This post originally appeared as a guest post on My Inner Chick. You may also like reading this author interview with Martin McConnell or this post on Lessons Learned from National Novel Writing Month.
Has finding your writing voice been easy or more of a struggle? What has and hasn’t helped you on that journey?
Please share responsibly. Jeri Walker, 2018.