If you think binging began with Netflix, think again. Wait, what? There’s no need to check your eyes. You read that correctly. Avid readers have binged on books by their favorite authors for what seems like forever. My book binge is always Elmore Leonard. His unique, diverse yet similar stories never get boring or annoy me – no matter how many times I consecutively read his books.
Known for his sharp dialogue, Leonard’s bad-guy characters are more empathetic than his good-guy characters (with a few exceptions) but it’s his seamless ability to fluctuate his writer’s voice without sounding forced that made me fall in love with his style of writing.
What’s Writer’s Voice?
In the simplest of terms, a writer’s voice is personality, temperament and attitude.
Attitude: Passions, principles, and standards. Whether you’re aware of it, you expose your attitude through word choice and actions, including body language.
Temperament: How you sound; your verbal delivery and response. Your temperament can be swayed by attitude, mood and any number of outside influences.
Personality: Simply, your words and how you use them.
As a reader, a writer’s voice is what draws you into a book and keeps you coming back to that author – regardless if it’s a novel, non-fiction, a blog or a sports column. Any writer worth their salt can change voices as needed and on-spec. I recently read that in order to be an effective blogger you need to develop a singular, one-dimensional voice to keep readers coming back. That advice is shortsighted.
The truth is: your business blog should have a consistent voice but it should oscillate in a way that retains clients while drawing in new ones. Blogging for business is different than blogging for personal reasons. There is no formula for writing a blog that “someone will actually read” as someone indelicately trolled for suggestions on a professional networking site I regularly visit.
Uncover Your Writer’s Voice
In my experience, if you’re having difficulty finding your writer’s voice it’s because you’re fighting it. You may love the tone of a certain blog, sports column or magazine writer but emulating it might not work. Don’t force it. You can take what works for you and leave what doesn’t. Check out this exercise to help find your writer’s voice. It will work as long as you’re willing to be honest.
Describe yourself in five adjectives.
Using those five adjectives, write five sentences about yourself. Read to yourself out loud and ask/answer: “is that how I sound?”
Pick your favorite things to read (books, blogs, magazine columns) and ask yourself what it is you like/dislike? Keep a journal and track your answers; see if they change as you get more comfortable writing.
Write. It doesn’t matter what you write, just do it without editing. Put it down and when you go back to read it out loud to yourself. Ask yourself: does this sound like your ideal client? Would you, as a consumer, read this?
In the end, finding your writing voice is about being true to who you are. Your writing will evolve as you get more comfortable (practice, practice, practice). Cut yourself some slack – there’s a learning curve. Charles Caleb Colton so famously said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Be careful you’re not cribbing so much from your favorite writer that you’re assuming their voice as your own. You’ll know if/when you are (it will sound strained) and so will your readers.