What’s Your Writing Voice?

A vintage photo of a woman reading a letter. Image from The Graphics Fairy.

Every writer has their own voice. Every single one of us worries, or has worried, that we’re not using our authentic voice, somehow we’re borrowing it from someone else — or worse, ripping them off. How do you know the difference? What can you do?

How does a writer develop their voice?

We’re constantly told that if we’re going to write, we have to do a lot of reading. That’s great advice, everyone should follow it whether they’re a writer or not. Reading helps us develop our writing style. The more reading we do, the easier it becomes to figure out what our voice sounds like. It’s not a cliché. You don’t have to read the latest novels or whatever this week’s bestseller is, in fact, going through your list of favourite blogs counts. Those self-help books you’ve been collecting just in case you have time for them? Add those to the pile. Your favourite magazine. Fanfiction. Just read.

How do I know that voice is mine?

Trust yourself. It’s natural for us to adapt quirks and new words from the people we engage with and the work we read. There’s nothing actually wrong with this. Unless you’re pasting someone else’s work onto your blog and claiming it as your own, you’re writing in your own voice. The best part is, it’s going to change as time goes on. As you gain more experience, you’ll refine your “style” and get better.

If you’re just reading one person’s work all the time you’re probably going to wind up sounding a lot like them, so it’s important to branch out. Read everything, remember?

At the same time, don’t force it.

Don’t feel bad if you can’t finish something you’ve started reading, or if your style isn’t developing as quickly as you’d like. You need to be patient. Writing and finding your sea legs are both things that take time, and if you’re not interested in that kind of investment, you may be in the wrong line of work.

How do I keep developing my voice?

Write.

Don’t just write articles, try your hand at fiction, poetry, look at various writing prompts, re-write stuff you’ve read in your own words. As long as you’re writing, you’ll figure out who you are. Like any muscle and creative exercise, writing requires practice. Whenever I can’t figure out what to blog about I turn to my various fanfiction and roleplaying blogs — as long as I write something that day, whether it gets published or not, it’s a win!

Here’s an exercise for you: have you found your own writing voice? What (or who) has influenced your style the most?

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