Are you a writer?
Do you find there are times when you come to write and only get as far as a few pages in, read it back and don’t know how to carry on?
Your words look bland on the page, you feel nothing for them.
You sit in front of your computer screen for a while and stew, maybe you put the lack of success down to that all-consuming writer’s block that you’ve heard about?
Spoiler: It’s not writer’s block. You just haven’t found your voice yet.
Voice is the distinct personality, style or point of view of a piece of creative writing, poetry or
even journalism, and it’s specific to you as the author.
Your voice is what makes the writing flow and it’s what will get your recognized, so it’s important to know how to develop it.
The idea of trying to develop a voice is quite daunting and can inevitably become a massive obstacle for you. We’ve all been there.
The first step to find your voice is to start testing techniques.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
It’s going to take trial and error and it won’t be the same for every writer, but here are four of my own techniques to get you thinking.
1. Start writing in a journal
This technique first came to me a couple of years ago while I was reading Virginia Woolf’s Selected Diaries (which, if you want to read a writer with a profound sense of voice, I would highly recommend you buy and read!) The way Woolf talked about such simple, mundane moments in her life with such attention to detail inspired me to do the same.
Your journal entries will never sound like Woolf; her style is personal to her, and if you tried to imitate it your writing will be nothing more than that.
Take the time to sit there and really focus on you. Your thoughts, your feelings, what you see, and describe it in your own words. Talk as freely and openly as possible. After all, this is your journal, only you have to see what you write. Maybe make it interesting and start experimenting with first, second and third person to see how your voice changes.
Making journaling a daily habit will undoubtedly help develop your voice, especially if you start your creative writing straight after you’ve completed your journaling.
2. Read out loud
As you write, the more you get caught up in word count and how to describe the cracked coffee cup your character is holding in a new and interesting way, it becomes very easy to lose your voice. This is normal and it can be remedied.
Reading out loud can highlight the parts of your book when your voice sounds choppy and unnatural. If this is the case, throw in a couple of everyday phrases that you hear from people passing on the street.
Another thing to be cautious of when you read out loud is that you’re not sounding like your favorite writer.
This is something that may not immediately make itself apparent to you when you’re proofreading your work, so make sure you take the time to read out a couple of samples to make sure that you’re keeping to your own voice.
3. Free write
A great way for a writer to find their voice is to free write. It empties all of your inhibitions, all the doubt, and every wall that you subconsciously put in place. That voice that is constantly question your every move or word will slowly slip away.
You literally just have to projectile vomit words onto the page. They don’t even necessarily have to make sense at first. After all, the beauty of free writing is write now, edit later.
The point is that it gives you the opportunity to empty your subconscious and scatter it all over the page. Your subconscious is your voice, nobody else’s.
Take an hour as often as you can and just write.
Write about anything and everything and later you can edit what you’ve written into something more refined and pretty. As long as you don’t over edit and let the critic in you take over, your voice will be there.
4. Ask for feedback
So far you’ve been doing everything completely on your own. You’ve spent hours journaling, free writing and reading to yourself and quite frankly your words are beginning to sound like slush in your ears.
At this point you need to do the scariest thing that a writer will ever have to do in their whole existence. Get someone to read your work.
I know, it sounds crazy and your palms are probably doing that unattractive sweaty thing so you
can’t hold your pen anymore, but trust me, you may not like it, but feedback is essential.
You can very easily ask yourself “does this sound like me?” but your answer to that question may not always be the most reliable. Someone who talks to you regularly or reads your work regularly will be able to answer almost instantly.
For all the introverts out there, this doesn’t have to be done face to face, you can do it over email, but don’t disregard the benefit of watching someone read your work and underline the problems with it first hand. Sometimes you need to see it to believe it.
Will these four techniques magically solve all your problems and help you find and maintain your voice? Not necessarily,every writer has a different creative process, but these techniques will certainly help give you a sense of authority over your writing.
It’s inevitable for your voice to slip at times and this can easily be fixed in the editing process.
Being a writer is never easy, you constantly have to learn and develop, and finding your voice isn’t going to be any different. But the point is you can do it!
So, sit down, put your positivity hat on and start trialling techniques.
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