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Finding Your Author Voice

Your author voice is one of the most valuable things you bring to a manuscript. Plots can be workshopped and typos can be fixed, but a compelling voice is something that is infused into every line and word of your writing. Unless you are famous or want to spend thousands of dollars on a ghostwriter, having a pleasing voice is one of the biggest keys to publishing a successful book.

Starting From the Beginning

Finding your author voice looks a little bit different for everyone. Some authors imitate an author that they admire and slowly learn to make the voice their own. Other authors write the way they talk and then slowly learn tricks that work better for written communication. There is no right or wrong way to go about it, but finding your voice is something every writer should do.

Testing your Voice

You will know your voice is established once you are able to instinctively rewrite a paragraph of someone else's work in your own style. You won't need to purposefully choose things to alter. The parts of the original paragraph that don't fit with your voice will naturally feel like they need to be reworded and, even if the information stays the same, the paragraph will end up distinctly different from the original.

Another test is writing a scene without any conflict or goals. Just a slice of life. If the scene feels interesting without those things, you probably have a strong voice.

Strengthening your Voice

If you're not confident in your author voice yet, there are lots of things you can do to develop a pleasing and compelling author voice.

Varied Practice

The first is to keep writing new things. When you've finished a manuscript, don't just keep going over it again and again. Take breaks from your main work-in-progress and draft new pieces. This way you can try out writing different characters, different points of view, and different emotions. Stretching yourself into new scenes and topics will help you try out new styles and tools.

Targeted Practice

As you write, you probably find some parts of writing (such as dialogue, descriptions, transitions, etc.) are naturally harder than others. Forcing yourself to practice these things can help you push through those weaknesses and develop tools and methods that work for you.  For example, if you struggle with dialogue, you can practice writing conversations. If you struggle with descriptions, you can write descriptions for several different characters or places. These practices don't need to be part of larger works, but they can be.

Identifying Issues

If you don't feel like you struggle with any particular part of writing, you can use outside help to identify weaknesses in your writing style. An outside perspective can find places where your writing isn't communicating clearly and effectively.

(You do need to be careful about relying on outside feedback. Different readers and industry professionals prefer different writing styles, so you have to be careful to weigh outside opinions against your own feelings. Following one person's advice on how to fix every issue in your writing is likely to leave your manuscript sounding more like them. You can take their solutions under consideration, but the really valuable information is what the issue is.)

A good beta reader or critique partner can help you identify weaknesses that you can't see.

If your beta readers or critique partners aren't able to help you identify the underlying issue, getting a larger amount of feedback can help you find the spots that consistently confuse or frustrate multiple readers. This approach can point you to a specific location to look for the issues in your writing style or reveal patterns in where your readers are not connecting with the story.

Another good tool is a first chapter critique. (You can often find first chapter critiques offered at writing conferences or by freelance editors online.)These can allow you to get a professional opinion on your style, but you can apply the feedback to the entirety of your manuscript on your own. The downside is that the feedback doesn't consider the larger picture of your story, so you may have to take some of the feedback with a grain of salt and consider whether their concerns or suggestions make sense in the larger context of your story.

If none of these solutions are helping, then hiring a substantive editor may be helpful to you.

Targeted Study

Once you've identified something that gives you trouble, you can research writing advice on the topic and try out different solutions until you find one that suits your own voice and style.

Exploring Writing Advice

Whether you are looking to identify weaknesses in your writing or improve specific skills, writing blogs can be a great place to find varied advice. You can find my favorite writing blogs and my personal advice on my Pinterest boards.

You can also go directly to my blog posts on writing skills.

These resources and other writing advice may help you explore new styles and strengthen your writing skills as you work to make your voice inviting and compelling.

About my coauthor:

Elestrei Engrei was a huge help at providing the author perspective for this post.

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