You’ve got the advice that every writer has received at some point in their life—focus on honing your voice. But a quick look around will show that there isn’t really any exact blueprint or roadmap for finding it. While it may take years to figure out your unique style, here are three easy steps to improving your voice today.
What is Voice?
In its simplest form, your writing voice is not what you write but how. This is a stylistic combination of elements like diction, syntax, and point of view that can make your writing stand out in a crowd. Read a paragraph of your favorite author, and you’re likely to recognize them purely off of their voice alone.
Voice can be broken down into two types: author voice and character voice. Good characters will have their own unique voice, which will be clear through effective dialogue or through narration if you’re writing in the first person. Third-person writing will demonstrate more of your own unique stylistic narration—or author voice.
Voice is one of the most important elements of good writing and can be the difference between your reader falling asleep and never putting your book down. But how exactly can we improve our voice?
1. Cutting Adverbs
One of the quickest ways to improve your writing and inch yourself closer to finding your true writing voice is to cut out all of your adverbs. As crazy as it sounds, the technique can do wonders.
Go through your writing and underline all of your adverbs. Then, rewrite each sentence, replacing the adverb while keeping the word’s effect. This exercise can help you discover your own voice because it will force you to describe things in more unique ways, showcasing more and more your individuality.
Just take it from Stephen King: “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”
2. Keep it Consistent
No matter what voice you choose in your writing, make sure it stays constant throughout. As your reader moves along and gets attached to your words’ personality, the quickest way to pull them out of that trance is by switching up your voice. Think of it as an actor breaking character on stage or a best friend suddenly acting like someone else.
Part of this consistency is being clear about your voice during your writing project. Do the words on your pages move the same way that they do when you speak? One trick is to jot down a few adjectives you would use to describe yourself. Does your writing sound like that same person? Read your writing aloud and make sure it stays consistent from start to finish to improve your voice.
While these steps can help speed up the journey to finding your own voice, figuring out your unique style is a forever-evolving process that will span your writing lifetime. You’ll get closer and closer to your truest voice through plenty of practice and constant observation.
Reading a novel that you just can’t put down? A close read can help you identify the elements that make that author’s voice so captivating. Steal your favorite literary techniques the author uses, everything from tone, punctuation, diction, syntax, etc., and try to incorporate them into your own work. In fact, finding your one-of-a-kind voice starts with emulating the styles of your heroes. Mess around with different voices and pretty soon your writing will showcase a unique blend of your influences along with your own worldview and lived experiences.
Another way you can improve your voice is by paying attention to how you and others speak. Record yourself telling a story. Or, go into a coffee shop and eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations. These tips can help you identify what makes a person’s voice unique and give you weapons to incorporate in your writing to make it more real.
By improving your voice, you’re on the right track to becoming the best possible writer you can be. The combination of stylistic elements influenced by your heroes, your life, and your personality will come together to give you the type of voice your readers will instantly recognize. Follow these three steps, and you’ll be one step closer to publishing your next book.