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Finding Your Writers' Voice

I've just finished leading a writing retreat in beautiful Phuket Thailand and am buzzing from the high
that hanging out with fellow authors always leaves. On day one we talked about the start of the journey towards finding your author voice. As we opened with an exercise where participants interviewed and introduced each other, one writer introduced another by saying, "Her inner artist is very protective of her own blank canvass." It was the beginning of the shedding of egos, the recognition that to be a writer you have to say 'I'm a writer!' very loud and very clear and... then just get down to the business of writing, which is the only way to actually discover the author voice that is inside you.

You hear so many literary critics, book reviewers and lecturers say that every author has a unique ‘voice’ but what exactly does that mean?

The more you read, and start to pay attention to the different nuances of different writers, the clearer this becomes as you start to notice a particular author’s thematic preferences, tone and point of view. The more you write and test different styles, the more comfortable you’ll start to feel as your true voice begins to take form.

In Nathan Bransford’s How to Write a Novel he talks about the author’s voice as having a personality of its own with a unique way of seeing the world. For example, he says…

“JK Rowlings conveys a cheerfully magical tone using key details, such as the personalities of the moving paintings in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Bransford outlines the essential elements that define an author’s voice:
  • A distinct Style – the true essence of the author’s voice in a novel is its unique style
  • A personality of its own – a unique way of seeing the world
  • Consistency – the voice stays strong throughout the novel
  • Moderation – don’t overdo it!
  • Immersiveness – a good voice envelops the reader within the world of the book.
  • Authority – confident and unwavering
  • Originality
The Royal Embassy Resort in Kamala Beach, home of the annual retreat
So, ask yourself these questions:
Is my writing wordy or poetic with lots of similes and metaphors?
Do I use sparse language with short sentences?
Does it flow with a stylish and magical tone?
Is it wry and gritty?
Can my writing come across as witty and funny?

Where does your strongest literary muscle show?
Are you adept a writing dialogue and descriptions?
Do you have a knack for building tension?
Can you effectively weave in humour?
Do you tie your writing into time and place?
Is your world totally invented?
Is there always an underlying theme?
Are your stories plot-driven or character-driven?

What is your tone of voice?
Deep and broody
Cynical or Sarcastic

Take a minute to contemplate how your writing comes across. Describe it in a few short phrases or sentences. If you’re just beginning to explore your ‘voice’ what do your strive for? What are the characteristics of your favorite writers?

Great examples abound! Read the masters. Read your favorite genres and just keep writing!

Have you found your author's voice?

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