Who Am I? Finding Your Writers Voice

I remember listening to a tape recording many years ago. The speaker, Mike Warnke, was sharing of his experience as a new Christian and speaker. He determined to be the very best . . . and studied the top speakers in the field.

He imitated Billy Graham as he thundered out an evangelical message. 

He spoke with the authority and passion of Kathryn Kuhlmann, as he preached to the sick and invited them to come forward for healing. 

He urged people to step out in faith in the style of Oral Roberts. Yet he had little or no response.

One day, in frustration, he asked the Lord, "Why don't I get results when I preach?"

To this, he said, the Lord replied, "I don't know. Who are you?"

We can laugh, but isn't that what we do as writers? We long for the inspirational writing ability of Karen Kingsbury, the gift of story telling of Jerry Jenkins and the creativity of J.K.Rowling. We try to use the poetic prowess of Helen Steiner Rice, the tension-creating techniques of Brandilyn Collins and the light-hearted approach of Max Lucado (voted best Christian Writer of 2009*). 

And we wonder why we don't get results!

Each one of us have our own abilities and gifts. We have strengths unique to our own writing style, and we have weaknesses. When we compare ourselves to other writers, we have no hope. We can't be as good as them. Chances are we won't make the same mistakes as them either. We can't write like them. We're not them.

As you read, admire the writing style of the author, but don't try to copy it. Develop your own style. Find your own voice.

Here are some suggestions:

Study writing techniques. Learn all you can. Put what you learn into practice. Find out what works for you--and what doesn't. Then have the freedom to use the techniques in ways that suit what you're trying to say.

Write. And write. And write. The more you write, the more you will develop your own techniques and voice. Don't try to say it like some great author would. Say it like you. Free write. Put your pen to paper - or fingers to keyboard, and go flat out. Don't stop for a break. Just get those words out.

Edit and polish your work until it's the best you can do. Put it to one side while you work on something else. Then come back to it. Read it aloud. Does it flow? Does it sound natural? Is this the way people talk? Most importantly, is it how you talk?

Look for advice, critiques, and professional input. You will never get to a point where you don't make mistakes. You will never become a writer who doesn't need an editor. The greatest writers are those who recognise their need for critique and are open to suggestions. Gather a group of people who are prepared to offer that advice. Join an existing critique group, or form your own on-line support group.

Choose the best time for you. Figure out what are the best hours, the time you are most productive, and write during those hours. Do the mundane tasks of writing, and there are many, during the other times. 

Read in the genre you want to write. As you soak in books by experienced authors in your field, you will start to pick up techniques and tricks you enjoy--and learn what you don't. 

Write for an audience. And that audience is you. Write stories you want to read. Write articles that will help you. Describe scenes you enjoy reading about. Create characters that bring you pleasure.

Enjoy your writing. If it becomes a drudge, put it away. Do something else. Start another project. Go for a walk. Do some gardening. If you force your voice when you're singing, you'll lose it. And when you start to force your words, you'll lose your writer's voice. 

Finally: 
Aim to become the best writer you are capable of being.

And always remember: There are millions of writers in the world today. But there is only one you.

Over to you: Who are you? What is your real writing heart? Share an answer below and help us hear your very own heartbeat.


Further reading on the subject of voice:

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 

Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and if you tell her who you are she may even follow you back.

19 comments:

  1. Shirley, thank you for your inspiring post. My heart's desire is to create characters who model/show love of learning, being genuine, strive for fitness, strive to excel, love nature, and respect and appreciate others.

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    1. It's good to have in mind what sort of characters you want to create, Linda. Thanks for popping by and leaving a comment.

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  2. Shirley, this is an excellent post. It's so important to learn the craft of writing and find your own voice. It does help to read, read, read and write, write, write.

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    1. Thanks Karen. I find it so easy to "mimic" people and their accents and mannerisms, even in real life. So it's been a challenge for me to be myself in my writing.

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  3. This is great, Shirley. Voice is a difficult thing to define and you've done a good job. I agree--we must all continue to study, learn, practice and hone our craft. It's an on-going journey!

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    1. Yes you're right Heidi. I don't know that we'll ever "get there". We have to just keep on keeping on. (Who said that? Churchill?)

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  4. I've always had difficulties in defining my voice. My writing style changes as often as my accent when I move districts. This is a great explanation, Shirley. Got the message--must write more and more often :-)

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    1. LOL! Thanks for this, Annie. See my comment to Karen. So you do this too? I was born in Scotland, but moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when I was four-years-old, then later on to South Africa. Yet until my parents both died, I continued to speak in a broad Scottish accent to them - and only to them. My accents switched automatically, depending who I was speaking to!

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  5. Coming to terms with who we are and our own voices is the most intensive challenge we all face.

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  6. To be honest, I am wary of reading because I don't want to inadvertently writing with someone else's voice. Does that make sense?

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    1. Yes it does. I think that's why it's important that you vary your type of reading. e.g. If I only read Karen Kingsbury, I'm sure I'd start to 'sound' like her whenever I wrote! Hopefully by having a wide range of reading material, my own voice will shine through when I write.

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    2. Ahh, that's simple! Thanks for the advice, Shirley.

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  7. Excellent article Shirl. I tried to start writing commentary - but nothing flowed, so had to put it aside and go back to what I am comfortable with. Am interested in your articles about promoting your writing. You do it very well with FB and blogs etc. i wish i could be as dedicated.

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    1. Thanks Debbie. Have a great and constructive day.

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  9. Great post Shirley. Finding one's own voice is key to writing. It comes with listening to your inner voice and developing your craft.

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