By: Marilyn L. Davis
Where’s My Voice?
“A writer’s voice emanates from their interest and compulsions that absorb them completely. Only by fully committing themselves to a pet subject or issue can the writer develop a thematic tone that speaks to other people with authority and serenity. The quality of their literary voice is the crucial part of the writer’s legitimacy, and their authenticity cannot come from mimicking other writers’ style but must evolve naturally from their inner sanctity and must flow effusively from an inner necessity.”― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
What’s Your Niche Topic, Subject, or Issue?
Building on Kilroy J. Oldster’s description of where to find the writer’s voice, it’s vital that you isolate the topics, issues, or causes that absorb you completely. Why? Because it’s those topics, issues, or causes that ignite your passion, and when you ignite that passion, the words are usually more authentic. In other words – your voice comes through.
What Makes Up Your Writer’s Voice
A writer’s voice includes these elements:
- Personal Style
- Word choice
Your Voice Has a Tone
There are many voices, and the content, your opinions, thoughts, and feelings factor into which voice you use for your post. Our tones can be:
I’ve Got Rhythm…Lots of Rhythms
Rhythm isn’t just about flow… quickly moving between sentences or paragraphs. Take it from George Gershwin in this rendition of his masterful; I’ve Got Rhythm and you’ll see that there are stops, starts, staccato, loud, and soft movement within in the song.
So do you vary the rhythm of your posts for your readers?
I’m not talking just about poetry, either. Do your words make me want to march, sway, rock gently in my chair, or do they soothe me? Each of those is either an emotional or physical response to rhythm.
What’s My Attitude Got to Do with my Voice?
Tone and attitude are both conveyed in your writing. Has anyone ever accused you of ‘having an attitude’? It’s usually not complimentary, either.
But we have an attitude in our writing. Some of our attitudes depend on the subject because it’s how we feel and think about the issue.
There are also formal and objective or informal and subjective attitudes.
Formal attitudes focus on the fact rather than the feelings. Subjective attitudes tend to be conversational using common language.
That’s My Style, and I’m Sticking’ to It
For the most part, writing falls under these four general categories:
- Expository: Learned, explaining something, or teaching something
- Descriptive: Long on showing us rather than telling us about the subject
- Narrative: Telling the story – usually conversational and with thoughts and feelings.
- Persuasive: Attempting to sway the reader to a cause, issue, or refuting another position.
Writers can switch between the four categories and still use their unique voice.
Words, Words, Words – Which Conveys My Voice?
The subject often dictates word choice. If it’s technical, then there will be words known only to those familiar with the topic. If someone is writing for children, then the language and words must be appropriate for the age.
Regardless of age, or technical jargon, there are simple guidelines for any writing.
- Choose understandable words, and when you have to include either a complex, obsolete, or industry-specific term, give your readers a clue or link. (Respect the Reader’s Intelligence: In this, I’ve listed three types and am sure that my readers will understand at least one if not all of the examples).
- Use precise nouns and verbs to create lasting mental pictures for your readers.
- Avoid wordiness. (Refrain from saying something like this: In the interest of time, limit the number of words you write for your readers as they are all busy with other obligations like family or work or have multiple distractions, and although quarantined, they can’t just read every minute of the day, and you want them to finish your piece, don’t you?)
- Be concise, and that means using the fewest words to convey your meaning.
Practice Sounding Like You in Your Writing
Confession: I know when I first started writing, I wanted to sound smart. Why that was important, I’m not sure today, but I ended up sounding preachy and pedantic. Now, before you say I’m trying to sound smart with the choice of those two words, please understand that those are two words I’ve used to describe my recovery delivery since 1988, so it’s not showing off.
Scott Biddulph helped me understand that the readers at Two Drops of Ink wanted helpful information presented in a way that made even complex concepts entertaining, educational, or enlightening. And they liked my voice. So, there will be times that I use the $5 word, but it’s authentic, not randomly picked from the Thesaurus.
Good content isn’t generic or impersonal. It must sound like you, or it’s not you; it’s a rehash of someone else, and it won’t gain you, followers. If you have managed to get a following, they want your words, phrases, and quirks. Yes, quirks. Those eccentricities, peculiarities, and traits make you write about your topics with fresh appeal. Sometimes, it’s the way you phrase a sentence that engages your readers. It’s your choice of words, style, tone, and attitude that makes the content yours.
Write to Your Audience Using an Authentic Voice
Age, eras, and generations are another way to isolate and find the right reader. I won’t ever be young again – fact.
When I’m writing about addiction, I know that there is a significant number in the population under thirty, so I try to use language to meet them halfway. However, I’m not going to write about addiction and recovery as if I’m twenty. It would be hard to claim 32 years in recovery and then write as if I weren’t even that old.
Each of us will use language that’s familiar to us. If our readers comprehend it, they might return if we’ve given them information presented from a different perspective, added insight, or helped them with a life issue. And before you decide that addiction and recovery are the only life issues I write about – if you’re a writer – better writing is a life issue.
How to Get Noticed by Readers
Getting noticed means that a writer takes the time to understand and know their reader’s needs. When you write for a specific audience, you have a general idea of what they are looking for, whether it’s education, entertainment, or enchanted. Each of us should have a target reader in mind because, without that imagined reader, we’re just writing without a clear destination. If it is a how-to article, be sure it makes sense.
Make sure you have tried the methods you’re discussing.
In my niches, I’m writing to the addicted population or other writers. But there is a common thread. Both of these populations want to improve something. I think that I can offer the reader ways to improve their lives or their writing. Does that read egotistical?
I would hope not, as a good portion of my motive is still about educating in the sense that “Hey, here’s what I did, and things got better. Try it, and let me know how it works for you.” I may write about relapse prevention or how to construct Swan Lake Sentences, but both posts are about improving my recovery or writing.
However, if you’re advising on any topic, understand that a reader knows if it sounds authentic. They want to know that you did something and are sharing the results, but in your words, tone, and style. Your target readers want to know that it’s not just some arbitrary how-to that you believe will work, in theory. Shoot, they can Google that info.
Narrow Your Audience to One Reader – Speak to That One
I understand my readers; however, when I’m writing, I try to think of one person; it makes my writing more conversational. I’m sure some envision themselves writing as if they’re giving a Ted Talk to a crowded room. That fills me with stress and anxiety – what would I wear, would the microphone work, would there be any laughter? If you’ve ever done any public speaking, an audience of 500 can seem intimidating. Many faces, ideas, needs, and opinions, and, unfortunately, imagining them in their birthday suits can backfire.
I digress, and when that happens, we can get into obscure or unrelated facts. When we write for that big audience, instead of writing for one, we get off track and occasionally get pretentious.
Granted, there are pretentious readers, too. Some want to comment and critique and put me in my place. I got criticized for giving what one reader considered a weak link. His links indeed addressed the topic, but the language was arcane and better suited to a white paper or journal submission.
That link would not have been beneficial to my readers.
However, I took the time to read all of his links and decided that it was useful for his readers.
I know my place, sharing what works for me. Period.
Your Readers Want Your Input
If it was good enough for Kurt Vonnegut, it’s good enough for me: “Find a subject you care about and think others should care about.” Now I know that all the rules say don’t end a sentence with a preposition, but in his sentence, he does, and so what.
We all get the intent; we understand the reasoning, and it’s his voice that matters, not the grammar rule. Often, a writer can break the rules when the intention of the content is excellent. Our loyal readers will overlook certain things because they enjoy reading our words.
Make sure your next post focuses on your tone, rhythm, attitude, personal style, and word choice.
And after you’ve written your authentic post, consider sending it as a guest post to Two Drops of Ink. When you’re published, you’ll get links to your blog, books, and other writings in your bio.
So, submit and let your voice be heard.
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at Two Drops of Ink and From Addict 2 Advocate. She encourages collaborative writing and guest posts on both sites as she believes that how something is said is more important than who says it. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.