Your voice as a writer is everything. It’s part of your brand and conveys how you interpret the world. Your voice is like your fingerprint; it is unique to you and identifies who you are. It’s what draws in readers and keeps them coming back to your words. Like Judith Crist said, “One must develop his or her individual voice—that’s what we call style, the name of the writing game.”
So, how do you do that? How do you develop your voice?
It helps if you know how you sound. The next time you are in a group of people that you trust (friends, family, etc.), record your conversation. Of course, ask your folks if they are okay with being recorded first. If they are, use your phone to record a short conversation. It doesn’t matter what you are talking about. Weather. Plants. Linoleum. Whatever. What matters is that you have 10 – 15 minutes recorded of what you sound like when you are having a natural conversation. Every human has a particular way of talking naturally and your writing voice and speaking voice are connected.
Then, listen to that recording. Don’t pay close attention to the content of your words at first. Listen to the rhythm of your speech. Do you speak in short sentences or long? Are you verbose or taciturn? Are there pauses when you talk? If so, where and why? Is your rhythm languid or clipped? If your voice were a drum, what is its beat?
Once you get an idea of your rhythm, listen to the individual words you use. Do you use lots of colloquialisms? Do people have to ask you what a specific word you used means? Are you refined or more casual? Are you heavy on adverbs? Break down the types of words you use to understand how you naturally describe things. A strong voice is a natural voice. How you write should not sound far off from how you speak.
Now that you’ve got an idea of your rhythm and your word choice write a short response to the prompt, “If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is…” Just take five to ten minutes to write your response. Then, examine it as you did your recording. Look at sentence length. Look at word choice. Does what you wrote look like how your voice sounded? Odds are it does.
After you’ve discovered what you sound like, you can dig into refining your style. For example, if you speak in short sentences with pauses in between your thoughts, then you should not be writing endless paragraphs without transitions or signposts. Semicolons may not your go-to. Or, if you speak with great descriptive prowess and are known for your 10 minute long stories, then own it. Hone those adjectives and similes, make your reader break out the dictionary. Don’t try to write the opposite of how you speak. Take what is uniquely you and put it on paper.
And, finally, have someone else read your writing. You can go back to that same trusted group of people and ask them to read something of yours. Ask them to tell you if it sounds like you wrote it or not. If it does, that’s your voice.
Hold on to it. We only get one.