An authentic and unique voice – it’s what every writer is trying to project. So what exactly is this illusive quality?
Some experts define voice in terms of the author’s style, word choice, and tone. But the definition is hardly important, the real question is how to develop it.
Having written eleven books for children and young adults, I feel like I’m a little closer to understanding the concept of voice. It’s not something I consciously consider when I’m writing, but there are skills that help a writer achieve an authentic voice.
Voice is about confidence and honesty – trusting yourself to write your story, your own way, writing what you believe to be the truth, knowing your characters inside and out, and being brave enough to reveal yourself through your characters.
The biggest impediments to an authentic voice are distance and vanity – leaving your emotions out of your story, and writing to sound clever, even when it’s out of place in the story. I’ve been guilty of that!
So, here are my suggestions for developing an authentic voice. (You can also see my suggestions for young writers here.)
- Trust yourself
- Be honest
- Write about things you care about, not what’s fashionable
- Write for someone specific
- Use your experience
- Don’t be afraid to reveal your own attitudes through your characters
- Keep your mind open to inspiration
- Get inside your characters’ heads
- Tell your reader a story, don’t write to impress them
- If something feels wrong, it probably is, so change it
- Learn from other writers
- Read, read read
- Write, write, write
- Let your writing flow in the fist draft
- Finish something