Voice seems to be the most difficult concept for writers to grasp. Yet just as each of you has a distinct set of fingerprints, you also have a unique voice.
Then why do writers cry, “I don’t know what voice is?” Why does one book sound exactly like another in the same category? Why do editors pull out their hair reading proposal after proposal looking for a unique voice?
It’s simple, my dear Watson. You have a voice, but you’ve played nice for so long with your smiling face secured firmly in place that you don’t know who you are. To express your voice, you need to “know thyself.” Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?
Voice expresses your unique personality. To find it, you must dig deep into the corners of your soul and dredge up the pain and sorrow you’ve tried so hard to forget. You must remember the joys of your childhood and the quality of the air—the scents, the sounds, the sights. If someone were to ask you to describe who you really are, would you tell them, or would you make nice and not admit to your true self?
“But, what if no one likes the real me,” you ask. We all feel that way. Be true to the person you were designed to be or you’ll never achieve happiness or success—not in the financial sense, but rather in finding peace by embracing your real voice.
Here are five ways to discover your unique voice:
1. Chose different words and cast about for a unique topic to write about than the author who’s written a best-seller. Populate your setting with characters we’ve never met. Take us to places we’ve never been. We don’t need another Karen Kingsbury. We need you. Karen is popular because—you guessed it—she has a unique voice. Let your personality shine through in what you write.
2. Find your passion. Don’t write another mediocre romance just because you can. If you love romance novels, discover your niche. Sandra D. Bricker, who is brilliant and funny, found her voice in her distinctive style of humor. Read and laugh your way through Always the Baker, Never the Bride or If the Shoe Fits and you’ll understand. She chose to write romantic comedy.
3. Express honest emotions. There’s nothing worse than reading a book that manipulates your emotions. However, if those emotions flow out of the wellspring of your author’s heart—your experiences—they will touch your readers’ souls.
4. Communicate your stories with authenticity—the truth of who you are. Why do you think politicians are unpopular? Because politicians all sound alike and promise voters the same things. Voters have a difficult time discerning who is a liar and who is telling the truth. Inspire readers with the truth. Fiction can be more real than life.
5. Spend time daydreaming and remembering your life experiences. Your personality was established by the age of five. Can you remember who you were then? Do you let your individuality shine through in your narrative, dialogue, and characters? Would anyone know who you are by reading what you write?
You have a voice. Use it. At first it may be painful and sound like rusty pipes to your ears, but you’ll get used to it.
Have you discovered your writing voice yet?
Barbara Scott has more than thirty years of publishing experience, ranging from newspapers and magazines to Christian books. As a senior acquisitions editor, she is credited for kicking off a well-rounded series of bestselling YA novels at Zondervan and quality, highly reviewed novels at Abingdon Press. Barbara worked with both fiction and nonfiction authors and sold their work to numerous publishers while acting as a literary agent for WordServe Literary Group. She also is a published author, and her educational background includes a M.A. and a B.A. in English. Currently, she is working as a freelance editor for both individuals and publishers.
You can find Barbara on Facebook and on Twitter: @BarbaraScott01
In honor of Barbara's visit today, we're giving away a copy of James Scott Bell's Self-Publishing ATTACK! for Kindle. Comment today for a chance. Winner Announced in the Weekend Edition.
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