By Sean Platt
Writers worry that if they write in their own voice, it will somehow minimize the strength of what they have to say. Nothing’s further from the truth.
I didn’t want to be a writer.
I loved reading and had read four digits’ worth of books by the time I was 10. I loved making stuff up and writing it down, especially if it would make people happy. But I didn’t believe I could actually be a writer. Not because I couldn’t express myself, but because I’d end up with my commas in the wrong place.
I have language and can speak. Because I can speak I can write. The same is true for you.
Unfortunately, many writers struggle to find their voice because they mistakenly believe people are looking for professional, intelligent, or authoritative, when what they really want is friendly and informative. Writers worry that if they write in their own voice, it will somehow minimize the strength of what they have to say. Nothing’s further from the truth. The more you write in your natural voice, the more you will write like you speak. Your language will be clear and your message easier to understand. There are some exceptions in the technical writing field where jargon trumps style and you need to be very specific. This book isn’t for technical writers.
So how do you find your voice?
First, let me say that when you first start out, you’ll probably unintentionally ape some of your favorite writers. This is perfectly natural and so long as you don’t do it intentionally, or try to sound like someone you’re not, don’t worry or fight it. In time, after you’ve written a lot, you will find your own voice. You’ll find confidence in your style and your voice will become as unique as you are.
Your voice is the aggregate of all the minutes of your life that have made you who you are. It’s all you’ve ingested, from other writers’ words to your own experiences. It is the verbal framework for how you see life. It’s what makes you interesting to your audience. Your voice will help you reach first-time readers, turn them into lifelong fans, and give you the base you need to become a full-time writer with a catalog of completed projects.
First you must find it. Which means you need to get writing. And it’s not just writing in your chosen niche, which will help, you find your voice. All writing helps you move forward, no matter the job.
Being a ghostwriter is one of the best things that could have happened to my writing. I’ve been commissioned to write everything from SEO keyword copy, to long sales letters, to fiction, to heartfelt and powerful letters, to autobiographies. I’ve learned and loved it all, and am a better writer because of it. I can write poetry, emails, or blog copy, all in a way that connects with readers because I pour my voice into everything I do.
I write fast because I know it’s the best way to capture my voice, but I always put more “me” into the edit. That’s the magic of writing as you speak, and doing it fast — not giving your brain time to question what your heart is saying. If you write like lightning, your voice is forced to the surface.
Teach yourself to write like you speak and you’ll wield the secret weapon of prolific writers and million-dollar copywriters the world over.
So how do you actually learn to develop an engaging voice?
Here are my top 5 tips:
1. Write like you speak.
Writing fast is the best way to capture your most natural voice. Done well, it also leaves you with copy that’s easy to edit. Manipulating your thoughts into elegant prose takes a long time. Capturing unedited thoughts as they fly through your mind, however, can yield clean, concise copy, with clarity and voice.
Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone you love. You probably wouldn’t use big words to try and impress or stop to think of the best way to say things, right? That’s the same immediacy you want to harness in your rough draft. The important thing is to get your copy down as quickly and naturally as possible. You’ll use your editing phase to trim away run-on sentences, unnecessary words, or anything else that will dim your delivery.
If you think it will be hard to capture your natural speaking voice, or have no idea what you sound like, record yourself in conversation.
You may feel silly speaking into a microphone for five minutes, but it’s worth it. Take your cell phone (or any recording device) and record a conversation between yourself, and a spouse, good friend, or anyone willing to hear you yammer for a few minutes.
Listen to the recording. What do you sound like? Are your words big, small, or medium? Is it easy to understand your point? Is your tone warm, friendly, conversational?