Finding Your Voice by Kay Keppler
Let’s welcome back monthly columnist, editor, and novelist, Kay Keppler, as she shares with us “Finding Your Voice” Enjoy!
Many well-known writers have such distinctive writing styles that after reading a few paragraphs, you can identify a book’s author without seeing the cover. In fact, some writers have such distinctive voices that readers pick up their books solely because a particular name is on it, rather than by title or subject matter. “I just got a Robert B. Parker from the library,” they say, or “I just bought the latest Janet Evanovich.”
New or inexperienced writers often struggle to find their authentic voice. Communicating with readers is difficult for all authors, and finding your best way to address your material is challenging. Here’s a couple of ideas to keep in mind so you can avoid common mistakes in establishing your style and build a voice that’s all your own.
Pick a subject and clarify your approach to it
Your writing style is not just about the words you put down on paper. It’s also the ideas and attitudes you want to convey. In the broadest possible way, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. If you are writing about a serious topic, do you want to be alarmist about it, or do you want to reassure your readers? Maybe you want to take a lighter view on a difficult subject. Are you writing noir? Comedy? Drama? How you do feel about your material? That’s what you want to express.
As a writing teacher once told me, there are many roads to Oz. Choose one, and be consistent.
Find your emotional core
Good writers evoke emotions. Readers want to feel something—they want to root for your heroes and hate your villains. If you’re writing a suspense novel and your beta readers aren’t afraid for your protagonist, you’re doing something wrong. Maybe your plot is to blame—but maybe your style is also at fault. Are your sentences too long and your word choices too languid? Are you too wordy or not detailed enough?
You want to create powerful emotions that hook readers immediately and that they’ll remember after they finish. Tap your own emotional experiences and show those feelings to your readers. Dig deep.
Practice, practice, practice
We’ve all read the stories of how many times well-known authors were rejected before some brilliant editor somewhere saw the light and bought the book for a princely sum. Sometimes those editors missed the boat, but sometimes writers submitted work for five or ten years or even longer because it took them that long to find their voice and learn how to write well.
Nothing beats practice to create fluency in your writing. Write every day and write as much as you can, even if it’s just for a few minutes and you finish only a couple of paragraphs. The more you do, the more you’ll understand how to choose words and build sentences that reflect your goals and ideas.
Style is a tool
Your writing style is the best tool you can have to reach your readers. Once established, it’s you’re your calling card.
Look at Robert B. Parker. He used a signature blend of humor, as well as short sentences, paragraphs, and chapters to reflect his iconoclastic detective hero Spenser. That’s Parker’s writing style, and it helped to make him a best-selling writer.
Your unique style can do the same for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
She lives in northern California. Contact her here at Writer’s Fun Zone in the comments below, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask questions, suggest topics, or if you prefer, complain.