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Finding Your Writing Voice

Updated on October 10, 2013
My novel with a unique writing voice
My novel with a unique writing voice | Source
Looking for my writer's voice
Looking for my writer's voice | Source
Bev searching for her writer's voice
Bev searching for her writer's voice | Source
Finding your writing voice is like receiving a gift.
Finding your writing voice is like receiving a gift. | Source
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Logo for our company Mutare Enterprises | Source

I was listening to Taylor Swift on the radio the other day. I don’t even know the name of the song but I knew for a fact it was Taylor Swift because of her distinct style of singing. In no way could Taylor Swift be confused with some of the classic singers of our time. Her voice has limited range and there is no power associated with it. What she brings to the table is wholesomeness, a lovely quality to her voice and approach to a song that has become very popular to millions of followers.

If I were to make a list of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard Swift would not be in the top one hundred and yet what she does works so well for her that it is almost impossible not to enjoy her singing. Of course that got me to thinking about others with a distinctive voice and style, the Janis Joplins of the world or even the Tiny Tims of the world, each so distinctive that they were immediately recognizable. Their voice was in fact their trademark.

So for a writer such as myself it was no major leap to transition from those thoughts to thoughts about the distinctive voice of writers and how is that voice developed. How do you go about finding your voice?

WHAT IS VOICE?

Finding your voice is not nearly as easy as it may sound. When I was teaching creative writing in middle school and high school this was actually one of the more difficult lessons to teach my students. With a little training anyone can write an essay but it takes quite a bit more practice before a voice is found.

Simply stated voice is the uniqueness of the writer. It is a combination of style, personality, experiences, philosophy, use of grammar and passion. It is a reflection of who the writer is and it is developed over time. The voice a writer may start their career with will certainly not be the voice they have in five years, or ten. As the writer grows the voice will change, sometimes subtly and sometimes in “Holy Cow” increments, but the voice will for sure change.

What I have found is the development of voice is not a conscious decision in most cases but rather the natural growth of the writer both as a writer and as a person. Consider a writer first starting out. They had a horrible childhood and an equally disastrous marriage and they are writing as a cathartic exercise to deal with their demons. Take that same writer ten years later after countless self-help books, five years in a new and loving marriage and therapy sessions and you will most likely see a monumental change in their writing voice.

HOW DO WE DEVELOP A WRITING VOICE?

Some of the development just naturally takes place over time. As we grow as human beings our perspective grows and naturally changes our style of writing. Some of the voice development occurs as we practice our craft.

I always taught my students that there were two things they could do to become better writers: One, they must read, read and read some more and two, they must practice, practice and practice some more. It would be very hard to convince me that it is possible to become a good writer without being a good reader. It would be equally hard to convince me that we can reach our potential as a writer without practicing our craft. I will add to that by saying that in order to be a good writer and develop a voice it is necessary to experiment in writing.

Practice writing in first person and then practice in second and third. Practice writing fiction and then practice non-fiction. Try different genres and review your work. In one style you may feel stilted while in another the words seem to flow onto the page. This is all part of the process. One of the hardest things for me about writing a novel was jumping back and forth between characters because each character required a different voice, just as each person we meet has a unique style about them. Characters in a novel have to come alive and seem like real people and that requires the writer to make them come alive through differing voices. Believe me when I say it is not nearly as easy to do as it may sound.

WHAT ABOUT MY VOICE?

I have been told that I have a unique writing voice. My response to that is that I better have or I’m not much of a writer. As I look at my writings I recognize at least two distinctive voices in my writing. On the one hand I have a reflective, introspective and inspirational voice when I am writing articles about alcoholism, lifestyle choice and adoption. On the other hand I have a completely different voice when writing humor as shown in my novel “The 12/59 Shuttle From Yesterday to Today” as well as many comedic articles I have written. I have told people who considered buying my novel that it is completely unlike any other work of mine that they may have read, and it is! If you were to read that novel and read articles I have written on alcoholism you would be hard-pressed to see any similarity in the two voices; in fact you would most likely think two different writers had done them.

The sarcastic, funny voice in the novel is something that has developed over years having grown up with a rather biting, sarcastic sense of humor. The introspective voice of my articles comes from a lifetime of experiences, hardships and self-reflection about who I am and what do I seek. Perhaps there is a way to combine them in one work but I have not found that way as of this writing. They are two, distinctive voices and yet they are both a very real part of who I am.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR VOICE?

Do you have one? Is your writing voice distinctive? If not I can only suggest practice and hard work if you are serious about your writing. Like any craft writing does not come easily; it requires long hours of pushing your limits, delving deep within yourself and perseverance. If writing were easy then I’m not sure it would appeal to me. I love the challenge of finding new ways to convey my message. I love putting my heart and soul into my work and yes, I love making people laugh and cry and discover things about themselves through my writings.

The only person who can find your writing voice is you. It is possible to copy the voice of another but I do not see the reward in it. The reward in writing, for me, is to finish a piece of work and know that it is uniquely me, that no one out there among the millions of writers writes exactly as I do. I want my writing to be an extension of who I am, just as I wanted my teaching to be an extension of who I was at that time

Work! Practice! Experiment! Find out who you are and then allow that discovery to shine through your writing. When you are able to do that you will have found your voice and there will never be another voice like yours.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."

Have you found your writing voice?

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    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Gail, I'm impressed beyond words that you finished that book that quickly. Thank you so much for your lovely review. Although it was an easy book to write for me I had a hard time putting it out there for others to read because it is such a departure from my normal writing. I truly do appreciate your kind words.

      You are a good person and if I'm ever in Delaware I hope you'll let me buy you lunch so we can chat as friends.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      I have just finished reading your book, "The 12/59 Shuttle: From Yesterday to Today" and can vouch for the fact that the main character in it has a very distinctive voice whose humor is bitingly sarcastic.

      That is a big change from your usual writings on HubPages but it really brought the character to life and kept me reading almost straight through to the end.

      I loved the way you used the other main character, Sheila, as a soft, loving counterpart and how you showed that love, does indeed, alter reality and that a handful of people can help create real change in the world.

      Congratulations on publishing this highly original, funny novel that also has much to say about the state of the world.

      The greatest hope for change is when individuals start acting with love for the earth and for their fellow human beings.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Raci, you are so correct. I would not be half the writer I am today if it were not for my life experiences. At this point in my life I am grateful for all that has happened to me so I could finally find peace and contentment. Thank you for your lovely comment.

    • raciniwa profile image

      raciniwa 5 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

      Yes, i do so believe that experience is the best teacher, theories may give you the idea on things, but it can never be meaningful unless you have the first hand experience to it...just like the facts on Alcoholism, on how it would destroy a person's life, but all those sermons will go on deaf ears unless one has experienced it...i said before, break up is easy, the pain is tolerable, but one can't really say that, the mind can always play tricks on us but it's the body who will bear the brunt...

      just like in writing, the feeling is not there if one has not undergone the experience...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shimmering, you do remarkably well considering that English is not your native language. Your poetry is beautiful and evokes emotions and isn't that the mark of a good poet? Thank you for your meaningful insight and comment.

    • shimmering Dawn profile image

      shimmering Dawn 5 years ago

      Great hub here Bill, Read, read and read some more and write, practice and experiment. As as person whose mother tongue is not English I sometimes think in the vernacular, and do not find such deep expression in the English language. I am searching for my voice and keep writing but post very few here... maybe soon I will find my very distinctive voice when it comes to story telling! Poetry flows from the heart, so the voice is very clear... Thanks for sharing this. Have a blessed day. Peace and love.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ruby! I agree that finding our voice is exciting and it is fascinating to see the growth and change that happens to writers as time goes by. I love HubPages!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, is awesome. FInding our voices through writing is very exciting. I love this hub, very helpful and true indeed. Your style is showing through, nicely my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Xavier, thank you very much! I will be doing another on alcoholism in the next week. I appreciate your support as always and peace to you on the Isle of Man.

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 5 years ago from Isle of Man

      I heard the teacher's voice in this one and your students were lucky to have a teacher like you. There are three kinds of teacher Bill - The ones who complain, the ones who explain and ...the ones who inspire. I see you as a teacher who inspires! Keep up the great work Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you, Always! I run into the same problem when I try to write factual material...it sounds like the most boring renderings of a most boring human being. Indeed, practice and time!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I think each time you write, you're finding a little more voice. I love to do poetry, but i would love to do some creative writing, it seems when i attempt to write something funny, it 'kinda falls flat. I guess practice is needed..Interesting article..Thank you...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sonya, I did survive the taxes and Bev and I enjoyed the movie and now the day is winding down. I can tell you without a doubt that you are a writer and you will only improve with time. As long as you write from your heart with passion you can never go wrong. Thank you my dear; wishing you happiness always!

    • Sonya L Morley profile image

      Sonya L Morley 5 years ago from Edinburgh

      Some days I think I am a writer and other days... It seems just as I find my voice it vanishes again. Your writing never fails to remind me why I actually love to write in the first place, so thank you for that! Hope you got through your taxes alright.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hi Sha! Well it sounds like you have some serious plans regarding your writing and isn't that exciting? I have gone back and looked at stuff I wrote fifteen years ago and it seems like a stranger wrote it. It is fascinating to watch our growth over the years.

      We do not owe this year and that is pretty good news; in fact that favorite Uncle of mine is giving me money this year. What a great guy he is!

      I hope you are having a great weekend and I'm sure we will be in touch soon.

      Peace and love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Mark! I think we all have a voice but if we were to try and describe it we might have a bit more trouble. I have found that others describe my voice much better than I do. Thank you for sharing and I hope you are having a great weekend.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Howdy my friend! What you say about your voice ever-changing, evolving if you will, is so true. I've been writing poetry since age 19. At the time, I didn't consider them poems; more of an emotional release. I've written over 110 poems since and have decided to have them published. As I was transferring them from 4 notebooks, all hand-written, to Word, I saw my growth thru the years. In other words, my voice changed depending on where I was in forming my psyche. It was interesting to see myself from the outside, rather than from the inside, which is from where my words always come. While poetry is still one of my favorite forms of expression, I've also ventured in offering "green tips" with which I try to include humor. I've written a short story or two and have the prelude to a novel in pen. One area I've not tested, is fiction. I seem to write from exprience or emotion. That seems to be my voice!

      Good luck with your taxes. I hope you don't owe Uncle Sam (funny I've never met this entity who claims to be my uncle!) as I do this year!!

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 5 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      Very thought provoking Bill, I am not sure I have identified a voice, I probably have one but haven't realized it.

      Voted Up and shared!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael, I would love to be able to write satire but as of yet I do not have the proper words. Gives me something to shoot for! I find I can't do what you can do so well, the analytical; hard as I try the personal sneaks in and pushes out the objectivity. Oh well, we do what we can and keep trying to push the limits. Thank you for stopping by my friend and peace to you today across the Pond.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sweetheart, thank you! Your kindness makes me want to root for you to find all of the answers within and shout them out to the world. Peace and happiness to you today my friend, and my sincere appreciation for taking the time to read and comment.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Katrine, a boffin??? I have never heard that word. Now I have something to research! I don't tell many people this but my favorite course in college was philosophy....my future was laid out before me and I just didn't see the path when I was twenty! Now I do and I love my freedom to express my thoughts and what is even better is my thoughts are accepted by fellow writers...what a gift that is! I appreciate you, the beauty of your work, the wonder of your mind, and your depth as a person. Have a fabulous day!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Home, I don't think there is any doubt that you have found your voice. Maybe not the one you will have in the future but one that works quite well for you in the present. I'm glad my article provided some thoughts for you to consider. Wishing you a wonderful day!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      This was really interesting.

      I do find that I have several 'voices' when writing.

      I sometimes find that the bleed into one another.

      Especially If I am writing on politics.

      I try to stick to a detached analytical approach but cannot resist some biting sarcasm.

      It does bug me sometimes and makes me think I should just go for the satire.

      Voted up interesting and useful

    • sweethearts2 profile image

      sweethearts2 5 years ago from Northwest Indiana

      billybuc a voice that has captured me. Your persona whispers and shouts feelings, dreams, passions, beliefs, fears and attitude. You do make me want to discover what I am hiding and make it shine. Another great hub!

    • profile image

      KatrineDalMonte 5 years ago

      Billy, a wonderful hub. It's interesting how we progress in our life. When I was at school I so hated writing, I always had trouble getting my homework done when it came to writing essays and similar. However I did love reading, and I read everywhere I could. Even early on in a high school while other girls used to read love stories I preferred to read philosophy (hmmm)...So my head was full of thoughts, questions, always searching for answers to how things work in life etc..I just somehow wasn't able to put it down in writing. So it did take a long time to be able to express my feelings in a simple way without sounding like a boffin (haha) right from the start. Through my natural growth as a person, learning more about life through my own experiences I managed to overcome the fear of putting my thoughts and emotions in writing. I think it's first of all a journey of a long self-exploration. It all must come from within. Nobody can tell us how we should or shoudn't write. Anyone can write, just finding that own style and voice takes time, and it continues to be developed as we develop while travelling on winding roads of our life. :-)

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      I am still working on finding that I think. I have not been writing long enough to know for sure right now what exactly that is so that I will know it when I find it. But I do believe I am getting closer as I become more comfortable with my writing and with writing in general. Great thought provoking article for me to read at this time in my journey!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you my dear! I read your hub and commented. Best of luck with that situation.

    • smzclark profile image

      smzclark 5 years ago from cheshire

      I only speak the truth, so more than sayin' it, i'm thinkin' it too :-). If you find the time, check out my newest: I could really use some insight :-)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That is a very kind thing to say, Smzclark...I appreciate your words and I am happy that others relate to my writing. I hope life is good in the UK and I'll stop by your site shortly to see how your writing is coming along.

    • smzclark profile image

      smzclark 5 years ago from cheshire

      I haven't read a hub written by you that I haven't enjoyed and related to in some way. That is another thing that I think you are extremely good at is; connecting with your readers! Another good 'n'!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eddy, what a fabulous friend and support system you are! Thank you dear one and one day we will toast each other from our respective farms and won't that be a wonderful day? I am hiding in my studio doing taxes, listening to the rain fall and thinking about friendships and love and all the things that are precious to me. You are on that list. Have a wonderful weekend with that special man of yours and I will talk to you soon....Bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cyndi, fiction was the hardest for me and I in no way have found the voice I am comfortable with in fiction...but I'll keep trying. Always love having your drop by and leave a comment. Have a wonderful mini-vacation!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kallini, all good questions and it certainly helps having someone read your work as a source of motivation. I have Bev who believes in me more than I believe in me and that helps immensely. I do know that few writers gain acclaim over night, that this process takes years. I'm in it for the long run and I hope you keep at it...I'll be by to read your work as soon as I finish my taxes. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dana, this is all a process; it isn't going to happen overnight and if it is important to you, which I believe it is, then you will stick with it. The biggest step, however, is to believe in yourself. You have what it takes...now get out there and practice! Thank you and I'm glad this was helpful!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Cool hub! I have a crackly voice. Hehehe. No, really, the information here is great: I haven't found my fiction voice. I've always liked my non-fiction voice. Fiction is scary to me. But, I'll have to really give it a go sometime. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub Bill;and I can relate to it perfectly.

      I used to write as a child and my school teachers used to enter my stories into competitions for which I won many prizes throughout the whole county.

      However at home I would be met with "My god the rest must have been bad then!!"

      Therefore the only writing that I would do from then on were going to be indoors and for no one else to see.

      This continued past my childhood as I wrote story after story for my children alone;none venturing out through my front door.

      After my sister's tragic passing I wrote a book of poems in my native tongue and a printers from our home town printed them into booklets which i gave to many who had known us as children.

      Soon after Erin's passing I joined everyone here on HubPages the warmest community I have ever known and have written and written and written in various genre but remembering to include humour also as this is so important to balalnce our lives.

      I then found myself digging deeper and not just scratching the surface;I wrote poems that I never thought I would and I have found my ;writer's voice'.I will always write a variety of genre but my favourite subject is writing about Mother Nature or as my Cherokee tongue says 'Earth Mother'.

      Thank you Bill for everything; for these brilliant hubs of yours and and also for support;care and your friendship.

      I will be eternally grateful and here's to a life long friendship.

      I wish you and Bev a wonderful weekend.

      Eddy.

    • kallini2010 profile image

      kallini2010 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "I have been told that I have a unique writing voice", well, I have been told the same. I am not a professional writer by any means, maybe that is why I have fewer hubs in 15 months than you have in only two months.

      I agree with everything you said, writing is not easy, good writing that is. Since I have found my voice, where would I find readers willing to suffer?

      Maybe I am just like Taylor Swift - unique ... but I did not like her.

      Is having writing voice enough? Or finding readers will greatly facilitate or rather motivate a writer?

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      Bill, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS! I know I have said a thousdand times that I am new to this writing thing. I have always been told I am great at technicl writing. My creative writing was always slammed by my teachers. I enrolled in a writing course in college and dropped it because I was too terrifed to share my work. I am very uncomfortable with fiction and third person writing. This is my attempt to pick up where I left off. And this hub is now my lesson plan! Perfect timing too because even with a HubNugget nomination I am having serious doubts if I can make anything of myself... Voted up and useful. Thanks again!