by Brave Writer student, Finlay Worrallo
What does it mean to find your “writer’s voice”?
Different writers write in different ways. Some use short, snappy sentences, using only a few adjectives; others write in a great torrent of colour, using all five senses. Some write as though they’re chatting away to an old friend; others write like they’re addressing an audience. The particular way a writer chooses words, puts sentences together, and expresses ideas to the reader is known as their writing voice.
When I was younger, I spent a long time finding my writing voice, and most of that time was spent copying my favourite writers. I wanted to write wild fantasy stories, so I looked at my literary heroes and followed their examples. So I wrote about bears named after places (like Paddington Bear). I wrote about a flat planet on the back of a giant turtle (like The Discworld). I even wrote about a school of witchcraft and wizardry (can you guess what I was reading at the time?).
A lot of my earlier stuff is…a bit embarrassing to look back on, but it was an important part of my development as a writer and helped me find the voice I wanted to use—colourful, humourous, informal and (I hope) easy to read. Nowadays, I write more than just short stories, but my poetry, articles, and fiction all have that underlying writer’s voice.
If you haven’t isolated your writer’s voice yet, it’s worth doing. It will give you more confidence, will make your work more distinct, and will generally make writing more fun.
Here are some tips you might try:
Pay particular attention to the voices of your favourite writers. What sort of voice do you like to read? Do you enjoy lots of jokes? Do you prefer long or short passages of description? Do you like being personally addressed by the writer or do you find this distracting?
Bear this in mind when you’re writing. The voices you enjoy reading will often inform the ones you produce. For example, I love reading beautiful descriptions, clever jokes and unexpected twists, all of which I at least try to achieve in my own work. Not sure how often I succeed.
It might sound counter-productive but if you’re still discovering how you work as a writer, there’s nothing wrong with noting how other writers do it and then trying out their voices to see how they feel for you.
If you always use long sentences, write a page where you only use sentences of nine words or less. If you usually write comedy, write with no jokes at all—or use a lot more if you tend to write more seriously. It’s through trying out different approaches that you discover what works best for you.
Make a conscious effort to notice the voice you adopt when writing. Do you sprinkle adjectives liberally or use them sparingly? How many senses do you normally use? Do you use much slang and informal language?
The more you write and experiment, the more confident your voice will become. You’ll be able to isolate exactly what you want to say, and how you want to say it. But if it takes you a while to find your voice, don’t worry. Some writers don’t like the idea of “finding your voice” at all because it’s a process.
My writing voice changes just as much as my speaking one. New styles and verbal tics surface and take the place of old ones. I find myself using more dialogue than in the past, when I preferred writing description. And I’m sure my writing voice will continue to evolve. Maybe in ten years time I’ll look back at the way I write now and wince, just like I look back at my younger self and wince at the adventures of a bear found at Wembley Stadium.
If you love writing, and keep on doing it, you’ll create the voice that’s perfect for you sooner or later. Write as much as you can and explore all the unexpected paths you find yourself on.