Developing Your Writing Voice

courtesy of flo and me

By Jennifer Blanchard

One thing that beginning writers are always asking is: How do I develop a writing voice?

I’ve heard that question a lot lately. So I did some digging, and found this awesome article from author Holly Lisle: Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice.

Here are the steps Lisle outlines:

  1. Read Everything–“You cannot be a successful writer if you don’t read,” Lisle says. “That isn’t opinion; that’s fact.” She suggests you read as much and as often as you can. I agree with her. Reading is one of the best ways to learn how to write, and also a great way to know what you like and don’t like.
  2. Write Everything–Lisle suggests trying many different genres and types of writing. Doing so will give you a better idea of what you like to write, what you’re good at writing and what you should stay away from. Even if you don’t use everything you write, that’s OK. Writing is practice, whether you do anything with it or not.
  3. Copy The Best–Lisle suggests picking your favorite author and trying to write something in his/her voice. This is just an experiment, however. It’s just a way of getting you writing in different voices. When it comes down to it, though, if you plan to publish, you need to write in your own voice.
  4. Play Games–“Make endless lists–one-word lists of the things that excite you, the things that scare you, the things that you dream and fantasize about and hope for, the things you dread and fight to avoid,” Lisle says. Word games can help you learn different terms, as well as how to use them. (Read Lisle’s article for example games.)
  5. Challenge Your Preconceptions–“You don’t know everything about yourself,” Lisle says. “You only think you do. The more you trust yourself to write without correction, the more you’ll discover that you’re a lot deeper and more interesting and more complex than you imagined.” Challenge yourself. Step outside your comfort zone. Write from a voice that scares you. Write from a voice you love. Try as many different things as you can.
  6. Dare to Be Dreadful–As you begin to develop your writing voice, you’ll be experimenting a lot. And it’s likely that most of your experiments will end pretty badly. Some may be great, though. Daring to be dreadful means you’re shutting off your inner editor.
  7. Write From Passion–“If you don’t care about the things you’re writing about, you will never discover your true voice,” Lisle says. “Your voice does not exist when you’re trying to write a book in a genre you hate because you think it will be an easy way to make a quick buck. Your voice does not exist in the thin and cheap places of your heart or the shallow end of your soul. Voice lives in the deep waters and the dark places of your soul, and it will only venture out when you make sure you’ve given it space to move and room to breathe.”
  8. Take Risks–This one goes along with “Dare to Be Dreadful.” You have to be willing to take risks. To step out of your comfort zone and try something new and different.
  9. Complacency is Your Worst Enemy–“If you’re comfortable, if you’re rolling along without having to really think, if you haven’t had to challenge yourself, if you know that everyone is going to approve of what you’ve done–you’re wasting your time,” Lisle says. “Writing done from a position of comfort will never say anything worthwhile.”
  10. Fear is Your Best Friend–“If your heart is beating fast and your palms are sweating and your mouth is dry, you’re writing from the part of yourself that has something to say that will be worth hearing,” Lisle says. “Persevere.” Fear will tell you when you’re writing something worthwhile and when you’re being comfortable and boring. Trust the fear inside you. Embrace it and keep on writing.

For even more information on developing your writing voice, read Lisle’s article.

For me, developing my voice took time. It took me a few years of writing consistently (every single day with very few exceptions) to finally get to the point where someone could read something I wrote and know that I wrote it.

How did you develop your writing voice? What tips can you share?

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