If you feel like you don’t have a “voice” as a writer, let it be known that you are not alone. Authors of all experience levels struggle with this concept. In short, your voice is your recognizable aesthetic style – essentially, the way you write. Each author, no matter their genre, format, or level of experience, as a voice. Much like a fingerprint, it is yours uniquely!
This article, however, isn’t going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to develop your voice. Rather, I want to use this space to remind you that no matter what you write, it is your writing, and that makes your voice unique. No one else can write like you, and nor should they – it is much more rewarding to find and develop your own writing voice.
Every author will have their own idiosyncrasies that makes their work entirely recognizable. It may take some time for you to be satisfied with it, and that sense of satisfaction may strengthen, weaken, and grow strong again with time and as your writing develops. But, ultimately, it is your writing at the end of the day – or, in this case, at the end of the novel.
I’ve come up with this handy numbered list of five reminders for you to walk yourself through any worry or fears you may have surrounding your voice as a writer.
- Don’t feel trapped by your voice – many authors feel as if they need to maintain a voice – their voice – in their writing. But that is not the case! Forcing yourself to remain in the same voice “box” (see what I did there?) can actually do your writing harm. If you begin to feel trapped, trying to mimic your own writing style from previous writing projects, stop. Take a step back. And realize that allowing your voice to grow and change can make for much, much better writing in the future.
- Allow your voice to grow and change – see above! It’s important to allow your writing to grow, to change, and to develop into something new. There will, of course, still be echoes of the old therein; one does not shed their writing style entirely, even if one is attempting to write within certain genre or trope conventions. Your writing style will always shine through.
If you feel compelled to try something new, allow it to happen. Don’t resist that change. Your readers will still be able to recognize you in the writing, even if you shift to a different style or make yourself comfortable in a new voice.
- Your past writing informs the present – again, this doesn’t mean you should be copying your own old style over and over again! Make sure you honour your past writing by acknowledging it, what it did for you at that time, and how you can push it further now, in the present. Maybe you stopped using so many metaphors, or maybe you want to go back to that more floral style of writing; perhaps your dialogue used to be full of dry wit, but now it’s taken on a more gently humorous tone. Whatever changes you note, you will most likely be able to see their progression into your current voice.
Check out this post about how to track your growth as a writer for more ideas on how to keep an eye on your ever-changing style.
- A voice can change with your subject matter or genre – don’t be alarmed if you find yourself writing entirely differently when tackling contemporary romance vs. a hard-boiled mystery novel, for example! There are certain tropes and conventions in genre that lend themselves to certain voices in writing. It would be difficult, but not impossible, for example, to write a regency romance in a contemporary rom-com style of voice and tone. Again, note the “not impossible” – really, anything goes when it comes to your voice. Be sure, however, to make note of what happens when you write in a different genre. Is it easier, or harder? Do you push back against the style, or do you allow your voice to flow through it? Paying attention to your writerly instincts will definitely help you make your voice more consistent across subject matter and genre, if that is what you wish to see happen.
- Give yourself the freedom to experiment – lastly, and perhaps most importantly, give yourself this freedom. Be creative, be playful – write what you want, how you want! Sticking to one voice and style can feel stagnating, especially if you feel yourself drawn to a new style or have discovered a new technique, quirk, or habit in your own work. Give in to the freedom of trying something new, and know that even if it doesn’t work out or become part of your growing and changing voice, you have learned something new about your creativity and exercised your imagination.
And, as writers, we are all about imagination. So feel free to get messy, try out different voices, and settle into your style. You are never too established or too set in your own style to try out something different. Who knows what might happen – you could finally find the writing voice you have been searching for!
As always, happy writing – and experimenting!