How to find your voice

Gut instinct.

Gut instinct plays a big part in any kind of writing. You need to know, when you’re writing, the difference between self-doubt telling you that the words on the page are terrible and a waste of time, and actual gut instinct telling you that something isn’t working.

This is really important for what I’m about to tell you, because although there are ways of discovering how you can find your voice, ultimately you just need to do what feels right. No amount of advice can force you to find your voice, or can create one for you, but there are paths you can follow to aid your own discovery of voice.

What feels right?

Try out different styles of writing. Experimental, traditional, descriptive, mostly dialogue. What do you enjoy most? (PS. If you enjoy writing dialogue more than anything else – have you considered scriptwriting?)

This can include various genres, following or breaking their conventions, and past, present and future tenses. Also first, second and third person – for reference, the difference between writing as “I”, “you” and “they”.

What feels right when you write like this?

What do you enjoy?

Before writing a story, you need to read some. This helps form your opinions on writing, you learn from what you enjoy and from what you dislike.

Try books from different countries, genres, aimed at children and adults and women and men, various styles, and mainstream top ten best sellers as well as obscure and old finds from second hand book shops. Broaden your literary horizons.

Maybe you don’t feel you’ve found your voice yet because you’ve been writing the wrong kind of story? I always think that if you’re enthusiastic about something in the first place, you’re bound to do better at it from the start.

What do you want to write?

This is where all of your previous research comes into play.

Think about the story you want to write, and logically what fits with that. What genre does it fall under, and therefore what vocabulary should you be using? Consider audience and how you should write for the people you want reading what you’ve written. Would it work if it was written from the protagonist’s point of view, a few points of view, or a god-like omnipresent character? Also consider tense: do you want the fast pace of present tense, or the traditional past tense.

Do you like writing in first person present tense, like Suzanne Collins for The Hunger Games? This adds suspense, and an immediacy to your story.

Do you like writing in third person, all knowing narrator style, like Lemony Snicket for A Series of Unfortunate Events? This style is comedic, unique, and flexible in what kind of information you can reveal and when.

Logically, these can make sense. creatively, you might want to do the exact opposite of what is expected of you in order to create a unique and interesting story.

Again, do what feels right! Trust your gut instinct. Trust. Your. Gut. Instict.

As a writer and editor, it’s the best tool at your disposal. Use it well.

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