Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: [email protected]).

One of the Six Core Competencies according to Larry Brooks in his book “Story Engineering” is voice and he notes that this is one thing that cannot really be taught. It comes with the “talent” aspect of writing. Everyone has a voice, its just a matter of finding it.

I remember reading my creative non-fiction essays I wrote in university and even after I wrote them, I didn’t like them. Why? Because it was ALL Nicole. Yes, it was non-fiction about my life. I prefer to write fiction because it gives you distance and because about whatever you want. It’s probably kind of like how actors feel, they get to be a fireman, a pilot, a big-time businessman, a soldier and whatever other role they choose.

As for my fiction, I can tell that my voice is there. I can see it coming out onto the page as I write it and after I read it, I make myself laugh at my own jokes. Yeah, kind of embarassing to admit but its true. My fiction is very “Nicole-esque”, but the characters are not me. I’m not writing a memoir and thus, its fiction. I have distance and room to play around, to invent crazier situations that I would never personally get involved it and the characters get to say things I would never say.

I’m sure I have a writing voice and I know that sometimes when I read things I wrote in the past, I automatically think it sounds bad. It’s like hearing the sound of your own voice and does anybody actually like the sound of their own voice (save for singers perhaps)? That’s probably how you can tell you’ve found it: if you feel a little discomfort in reading your own words.

So if you’re trying to find your writerly voice no matter what genre you’re in, you can follow all the experts tips in the world and I’m sure there are a ton of useful ones that say you can try a zillion different things, but I would like to offer you one practical quick way. I can’t guarantee that it works, but you may find your raw voice by writing a good old journal entry. And I’m not talking about free writing a journal entry about your story, plot, characters for exploration purposes or anything like that. No.

Grab a piece of paper or even a fancy notebook and pen or a computer if you prefer and write a journal entry about your life. About you. About what’s bothering you or what you like in your daily life. Write without inhibitions. You are writing for you, make it cathartic if you like. No editing or thinking.

For example, if you’re writing in women’s fiction. Try writing a journal entry about your main squeeze or an old crush or even a good looking actor or dude on the metro if you can’t think of anyone off the top of your head. Or you could write about what’s currently troubling you at home or at work.

If you’re writing a thriller write about something that scares you personally. Everyone has some sort of monster in their closet. Open the door and go visit it. Or write about an experience that thrilled you, a time when your stomach did flips.

If you’re writing a mystery, write about something you can’t figure out. Whether its the instruction manual on how to put together Ikea furniture or where you left your car keys, it might help.

Basically, if you can journal something real about your life that could somehow be related to you genre, you can re-read it and see your voice right there on the page. It won’t be you trying to model another author or trying to write the voice you want to have. It will be just you on the page.

You don’t have to show it to anyone or even keep it after you’re done analyzing it. But if you write more journal entries, then you will have more samples to find a pattern in your voice. What tone do you use? Are there specific words or slang you use often? Do you write long sentences or short sentences? What do you see before you?

Your raw writing voice is a gem to find. You may choose to play with it or modify it to fit with the authorial voice you strive for. I know that my writing voice is much more open, uninhibitied and humorous than I would exude in everyday life. 

What are the best tips you’ve heard on finding your writing voice? Have you tried journaling and if so did it help? Or do you think this idea is pure nonsense? 

If you’re a regular reader of my blog or even if you’re new here, how would you describe my writing voice?

21 thoughts on “One easy tip to find your writer’s voice”

  1. Great advice! I just posted a taster of my memoir with my Row80 check-in, what sort of voice would you say I have there, is it the same as when I’m blogging? I think your voice, is young, smart and passionate 🙂

  2. I often think about my writing ‘voice’ and I think I am still in search of it. Switching from chick lit to a murder mystery might help me find it as I am writing both so surely my voice will be in both.

    Will try you exercise soon, I like the idea!

  3. Hi Nicole,

    I find your voice to be fresh, conversational, and entertaining. I know I’ve told you this before, but I love all those little details you include in your writing, and it makes me feel like I’m seeing the world through your eyes. Love it!

  4. All good advice! I found Kristen Lamb’s blogging course was amazingly helpful for this too. Going through some of her exercises that forced each of us to do some heavy introspection, produced some great surprises in writing voices. It has been awesome to watch them continue to develop.

    1. That’s great.I just thought of this idea/topic a few weeks ago when I was having lots of fun writing a scene and I re-read it and thought that it was probably because my writer’s voice was coming through 100%.

  5. This came at the right moment, cannot even tell you how much I loved this article and how much I needed it. I am struggling so much these days to get the story right and to find that special voice, unique and personal… Thank you for these, Nicole! And many many hugs to you!

  6. Fantastic idea and suggestions Nicole! I love this. I used to write a personal journal all the time but got away from it a few years ago. I can see how picking it back up and using specific topics would definitely help. I have also found that my blog has been a great tool in helping me hone into the voice I enjoy writing in! Wonderful article – thanks for the FAB idea!

    1. I totally agree with blogging being a good tool to find your voice. I think it also helps improve writing because you get more practice and it forces you to come up with new ideas all the time.

  7. Very cool advice. Voice is such a hard thing to accomplish, and I think it’s very easy to over think. And yes, I find myself sneaking into my character’s voices all the time. They don’t like it much. Great post!

  8. What a great post, Nicole! I always think of voice as the way you would tell your stories to your girlfriends over coffee, only without all the boring parts. 🙂

  9. Great post, Nicole! Voice is hard to describe to someone, but you did well. I’ve found that writing everyday about anything is what will make it clear to you. Then when writing fiction, we have to create character voices. I like that part, but it takes practice. I agree with Jenny on how to hear your personal voice–talking with girlfriends–that’s the authentic you–not the mom, not the daughter, not the employee, not the wife/girlfriend–the real, raw, authentic you.
    Your voice tells me you’re a giving, friendly, smart and passionate young woman.

    1. Hi Marcia,
      Yes, I think voice is really something that is hard to describe and hard to find/hone. When you talk, your voice automatically shines through with vocab, tone, slang, etc. When writing though, I think its sometimes hard to not over-think or to exude something in particular, especially with all the writing advice out there. I think when I blog, I write as if I’m talking to all you girls so yes, I definitely use my “girl-talk” voice. 🙂

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