There’s a lot written in various books, magazines and websites about the importance of the ‘writer’s voice’ – that element of your writing that makes it uniquely yours – but many writers worry that they can’t find their voice; that they don’t even know what it is, or worse, that they’re merely emulating their literary heroes.
Whilst it is easy to read something by Donna Tartt or Marian Keyes and identify what it is that makes their writing zing (Keyes’ flippant yet moving character portrayals; Tartt’s incredible observational skills) their actual ‘writer’s voice’ is the way they say these things; it is how they as the writer portray the world, and imbue their work with a quality that is inherently theirs.
I was speaking with a writer friend the other day, and she said that in order to find her writer’s voice, she started a diary called, ‘What I Really Wanted to Say’, and in that, she noted her responses to everyday experiences where she’d said one thing but thought another. “It was an incredibly eye-opening and liberating process,” she told me. “I realised that I was hiding my true voice under a layer of social niceties. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I didn’t really say what I meant. But as a writer, you don’t have to worry about your characters’ feelings – in fact whole scenarios can arise because of the honesty you can bring to the plot. So in your work you can be really candid. It’s the one place where you can be who you really are!
“For example, on one occasion, in real life I had to respond to an email very professionally, but what was raging in my head and what I wrote in my diary was, ‘What the hell do you know, you wife-beating, bigoted old bastard!’ On another occasion, I said to my mother, ‘Don’t worry Mum, we’ll find a way,’ when what I actually wanted to say was, ‘If only you weren’t so bloody stubborn and would move nearer to us, we could look after you properly.’ Keeping the diary was amazingly insightful. I realised that I had a bubbling, low level anger inside that escaped in funny asides and heartfelt monologues in my diary. It gave me the confidence to use this voice that is strong, spirited, witty and courageous in my writing, and actually, in my life too. My ‘What I Really Wanted to Say’ diary became the key tool in developing my writer’s voice but it also helped to erase those limiting thought processes that had crept into my daily life.”
So, why not start your own diary of ‘What I Really Wanted To Say’, because when you analyse what that is, you start to find your unique writer’s voice, not the one that is bound by cultural mores and your own limiting niceties.
For more writing tips and advice, why not check-out Emily Cunningham’s Mentoring articles below