January 14, 2018
What’s wrong with your voice?
During a very recent – and first – bout with strep throat, I heard that question from co-workers, friends, and family members more times than I can count. Bouncing back from strep hasn’t been easy, but I’m almost fully recovered.
The experience underscored the importance of my natural voice while reminding me of the value and benefit of a strong writing voice.
Voice is an important characteristic of writing. Albeit, it is sometimes difficult to define. Generally, voice helps distinguish one writer’s work from another’s. It’s a combination of factors that make our writing unique to us and help us “sound” like ourselves.
The more we write the more distinctive, clearer, and stronger our voice should become. Indeed, readers should be able to pick up any piece of our writing and think, “that sounds like _______” or “_______wrote that.” (Fill in the blank with your name.)
Unfortunately, many factors can affect the strength and quality of our creative voice. Those factors include:
- Life challenges. Sickness, grief, financial problems, romantic troubles, and other life challenges can diminish our voice.
- Fear of success or failure. Fear obstructs voice. Our creative voice will never be strong and vibrant if we allow fear to hinder our writing, marketing, or networking.
- Approval obsession. Wanting to be liked, followed on social media, or invited to groups or events, can compel us to water down our voice.
- Other writers’ successes. Some writers try mimicking other writers’ style and voice in order to have similar success. That rarely works.
Recovering Your Voice
Despite these factors, it’s possible to recover voice. Here’s how.
- Acknowledge the issue. My throat was on fire. I had a fever. And my voice was rapidly weakening. Although I tried to ignore the problem for days, eventually I had to acknowledge I had a health issue. Doing so was a first step in recovering my voice. Even if you’re writing has never suffered from a weak voice it is possible that one of your projects may. Acknowledging the issue is a first step to strengthening your creative voice and improving it in a work-in-progress.
- Get help. Part of acknowledging my health problem was admitting I needed to get expert help, which I did. Similarly, at times, we need help to recover our voice. If that’s the case, get help. Read articles and books on voice, and revise your work to incorporate tips gleaned. Other options? Talk with other writers about voice-related concerns. Or allow critique partners and beta readers to read your work. Then incorporate relevant suggestions for improvement.
- Be authentic. If you want to succeed in publishing, be original. Indeed, as writers we have to be true to our authentic selves. Authenticity for writers mean writing on your heart topics. It means writing genres that resonate with you – even if they don’t resonate with your writing friends. Being authentic will assure your voice is loud and clear in each project.
- Experiment. If your voice is weak in your prose it is possible that you have not discovered the genre that best suits your voice. Experimenting with other genres may help you discover it. If you write fiction, try nonfiction — and vice versa. Or explore a subgenre within your chosen main genre. If genre is not the issue perhaps your target audience is. If you’re writing for young kids, try writing for teens. If you’re writing for children, experiment penning material for adults.
- Write your heart. Recovering voice also entails speaking up about our passions and incorporating those in our writing. For me that means writing from my faith and Christian principles that undergird that faith. Expect to see more of those themes in my blog articles.
- Re-commit. Discouragement, failed marketing efforts and other influences can thwart our commitment to chosen genres or audiences. If your voice is waning, it’s possible you need to recommit to writing, and your potential readers.
- Rest. Rest is not a dirty word. Sometimes we need to physically rest to recover strength for handling writing rigors. Other times we need to put a manuscript aside and allow it to rest before revising. Whatever the case, know that rest is an important aspect of recovering voice.
- Protect it. As you write for publication, you’ll likely encounter people who will try to change your voice. Some will want it to be louder; others softer. But, again, be true to yourself and your voice. Know that your intended audiences will love your voice without expecting you to succumb to any creative illness that would make your voice lose its distinctive sound, strength, or quality.
Lisa A. Crayton is an award-winning freelance writer, multi-published author, conference speaker…and more. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.