Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tips to Help You Find Your Writing Voice

"Voice is who you are on the page." Cindy Sproles
by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

The radio blared in the backroom. A voice boomed through the speakers. Howard Stern. There was no question who the speaker was. His voice set him apart.

When I begin to form sentences on the page, not only my thoughts and ideas land on the page, but something that sets me apart from everyone else, lands there too. My voice.

I write Appalachian historical, taking readers from the comfort of their living room, deep into the Appalachian Mountains during the 1800s. So when I write: “I’m figurin you done read enough to know the culprit is as clear as a buzzard circlin his next meal.” —the voice of that sentence resonates.

If you know me personally or you’ve waded through a conference class with me, then you’ve experienced my deep mountain accent and you have no problem recognizing my voice in my writing or my speaking. It’s my heritage. It’s who I am and though I can write it very business-like when necessary, for the most part, my voice shows itself in a very strong and evident way. There’s no problem knowing it’s me behind the pen.

When a writer asks me to define voice, it requires a little thought simply because voice is very personal. I refer back to Writers Digest Contributor, Brian A. Klems, who in his September 14. 2012 article, addressed the question. “Voice is your own. It’s a developed way of writing that sets you apart from other writers (hopefully). It’s your personality coming through on the page by your language use and word choice.”

Voice is who you are on the page.

So why is it so hard to find our voices? Easy answer—we try too hard. Writers spent so much time trying to write the way they think others want them to write, that they lose what their own personality brings to the work. Writing becomes forced, stilted, academic . . . almost sterile. It suddenly sounds just like everyone else rather than who the writer is.

Your voice is how you phrase things. It’s your own emotion and heart poured onto the page. Voice is you, plain and simple. Unfortunately, many search years for their voice. They write amazing articles and stories, but there is nothing memorable about them. The question then becomes, how do you find your voice?

Here are some tips to help you seek and find your own voice.
  • Relax: First and foremost, relax. Take a deep breath and realize there is not a mean-spirited teacher standing over you ready to slap your hand with a ruler if you fail to write each word perfectly.
  • Hold on to your writing basics: Voice does not give you permission to blow off the rules. Oh sure, when you write period pieces, sometimes you mess with the rules of grammar. But the basics never change. There is still order, plot, and characters who must follow the rules. Otherwise, the story fails.
  • Practice writing exactly what you think: That means . . . literally write what you are thinking. No edits. No fixing the grammar. Write your thoughts the way you talk. It takes practice. Try to place thoughts on the page without going through the editing process. When you write what you think, you begin to hone in on your personality – how you phrase things, specific words you use that others may not. You can always edit. But for now, don’t. Just write what you think.
  • Be conversational: Again, for some, writing conversational is very difficult. Be it their personal touch of OCD or the grammarian in them, it is acceptable to use contractions from time to time. Using contractions takes away the stilted tone and adds that touch of personality.
  • Allow your personality to come through: Your voice rings true to your personality. It’s not just a style it comes from deep within you. Be yourself. Give yourself permission to write outside the box.
  • Voice applies to each character: It’s true. Your voice applies differently to every character you write and it does so because there are different sides of our individuality. Learn to capitalize on your personal traits and let them seep in bringing a well-rounded feel to each individual character.

Sometimes finding your voice takes time. As a writer you have to let go of everyone else’s phraseology and use your own. When you loosen the grip you’ll see your voice is in your unique way of putting words together. It’s an individual sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world that enriches your readers.

Take time to look over your writing. Search out those turns of phrase that begin to speak to who you are. Find your writing voice.

TWEETABLES


Cindy Sproles is an award-winning author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of
www.christiandevotions.us and 
www.inspireafire.comShe teaches at writers 
conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

21 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Cindy. Sometimes I worry too much about the imagined mean-spirited teacher lingering nearby. I'm kicking her to the proverbial curb!

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    1. Yeah...freedom. You'll find you love writing as yourself.

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  2. Each article or blog post I read always gives me something I missed when reading about the same subject at another time. You brought to light some things I never thought about or heard before. I guess I am still searching for my complete voice but now I have more help looking! Thanks.

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    1. Good. I'm glad you found it useful. Voice is really who you are. So learn who you are and guess what...you'll find the most unique and vibrant voice you can.

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  3. Great post, Cindy. Like you, my voice in fiction comes through with a heavy Appalachian accent. Your tips will be a big help to new writers struggling with the issue of voice.

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    1. Thanks Dee Dee. We understand each other! :)

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  4. What wonderful advice Ms. Cindy! Thank you so much for confirming that it is okay to use "y'all" and "all y'all" from time to time. I appreciate how you explained how your voice can align uniquely with each character. Now I'm not so concerned with all the voices in my head when writing. God bless!

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    1. Lol...I can vouch for the voices in your head...but each character can have parts of your voice. Lol

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    2. Afraid I can't help with the voices in your head - lol...but you can apply some of that emotion to your characters and find great diversity.

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  5. Voice is something every writer struggles but agents always emphasized. They want to see individual voices.
    Thanks for clarifying it, Cindy.

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    1. They want what is unique to you. Your voice, not the ring of someone elses. Good point.

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  6. Great tips, Cindy. While I love the whole article, this rings true in what I needed to hear today; "So why is it so hard to find our voices? Easy answer—we try too hard." That sums up why I often feel stuck and my eyes gloss over in writing. My touch of OCD and my perfectionism, among other things, often drowns out my real voice. I'm learning it's OK to be me, to have my unique voice. Thanks for this timely reminder. Hugs!

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    1. It is okay to be you. When you squeeze the grip so tight your knuckles turn white, you are choking the sweet spot in your voice.

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  7. Excellent article. When I began to write, "voice" stumped me. As often occurs, we tend to overthink things. Thanks for laying out this concept so clearly, for giving us the green light to be ourselves, for giving me the freedom to be me.

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  8. Great piece; great timing. You've dealt with the heart of my struggle as a writer and an even greater struggle as a publisher of anthologies for a writing group. Oh, the difficulty of being editor for stories and essays of the voices of others without being tempted to tweak it into the "correct" way or (worse) the way I would have said it. I, too, write Appalachian history pieces. So, thanks for this. I'll share it with our entire group. Now, you jes come on back anytime, ya hear?
    Jay Wright - Anderson, SC

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    1. Like I said, your characters need to play by the writing rules but we can bend things a bit. It's good to remember not to overdo as well.

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  9. Thanks Cindy. I love how your voice resonates in your books. I know too well finding our unique voice can be a struggle. I'm learning to let mine go in the early drafts, so I can get to know my characters better. Sometimes I have to stop listening to all the other voices in my head telling me otherwise. I can correct grammar and sentence structure issues later.

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    1. Exactly. More so you have to remember your characters may not be grammatically perfect. Who is when they carry on a conversation? Don't over do, but allow your personality shine. How would you handle specific situations? That's all part of your voice...the emotions you feel when you face a hard or happy situation.

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  10. In a sense, "voice" is perspective--the author's as well as her characters'. When a writer can home in on that, she's on her way to finding her voice and developing her style.

    Thanks for the helpful suggestions, Cindy. Pinned & shared.

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