Monday, May 4, 2009

Discovering & Developing Your Voice, Part 1

I have multiple personalities: writer and editor. The last few years, I’ve kept my rent paid and my cabinets stocked with corporate editing and writing gigs. It’s my editor self that landed me the first gig and that has kept me employed. Even when I take writing jobs, I bring my red pencil personality with me – it helps me adapt to in-house style guides and turn in squeaky-clean work.

But, with so much emphasis on my editing muscles, some days I worry about losing my own unique writing style and voice. When I switch from marketing copy to writing my personal essays, it can take me a while to clear my mind and focus on hearing my voice.

Here’s part one of a two-part piece on Discovering & Developing Your Voice.

Part 1: Discovering Your Voice

Read. Don’t try to write like someone else – unless you’re being paid to temporarily adopt that voice. Figure out what makes the author’s voice unique. Is it the sentence structures? Specific word choice? A certain approach to descriptions? Think about how you can adapt these same tools in your writing.

Record. I know, most people complain about the sound of their recorded voice. But this is a great way to hear yourself. It’s long been recommended as a way to edit your work for repetition and redundancy. It’s also a way to help you hear what’s unique about your use of words.

Ask. Your friends, family and colleagues can be excellent resources for helping you figure out what’s unique about your voice. You may also find it helpful to ask them about your writing as well as your verbal voice. Even if you disagree, it could spark a few discoveries.

Mimic your speaking voice. It may not be the voice that’s going to get your book published or get you into magazines, but it’s a great starting point. One of my favorite blogs is written by someone I’ve known all my life. She’s not a professional writer but she’s done such a great job of developing the whole blog around her voice that most of her posts sound just like she speaks.

Get an editor. When I was an in-house editor for a company, my role was editing a wide variety of content. Within six months, I could identify an author of a rough draft even if it was printed hardcopy and left (with no name) on my desk. Even people who aren’t professional authors or aspiring writers have voices that speak loudly in their writing. An editor can help you identify yours.

What have you done that’s helped you identify your unique writing voice?

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A full-time freelance editor-writer and owner of a.k.a writer in Denver, Jesaka Long works her word magic for small publishing houses and authors, especially non-fiction writers and memoirists. She is also a Drama Editor for Conclave Journal. For more information email her at jesaka (at) jesakalong.com or visit www.jesakalong.com.

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5 comments :

  1. Thanks for the tips Jessica! These are very helpful. I appreciate the post!

    http://nickvalentino.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good stuff, Jesaka! I'll look forward to Part 2 tomorrow.

    Dani
    http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for reading, Dani and Nick!

    ReplyDelete
  4. It is easy to mimic someone else's voice, especially if it's an author you love. But you have to discover your own voice.

    Thanks for this interesting post.

    Helen
    http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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