Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Find and Develop Your Voice

You don't need to find your voice. You already have it.

I don't, you say.

But I say, you do.

No one can tell a story in the way you can tell it. No one can write a story in the way you write it.

Even a story that "sounds like" another author will never really sound like someone else.

I remember an editor telling me, way back in the dark ages when I first started freelancing for The Herald-News, that as I wrote, I would find "my voice." I had only a dim clue as to what she meant.

I'm still not sure what "my voice" is, although other people say they "know" when they are reading one of my stories.

I found this to be true accidentally, twice, actually.

One happened while I was researching a nurse online for a story, and I found a press release about her. It sounded as if I could have written it. Turns out, when I did a search in my documents, I had written it, many years ago.

Another time, more recently, when a  feature story by a freelancer needed a lot of reworking, a public relations person from a local college said she loved the story I had written. When I messaged back that I hadn't written it, she was confused. She was so sure I had written it, as it had "sounded" like one of mine. As an editor wanting to see each writer write to the best of his or her ability, instead of being content for me rework a story, this was not good news.

When I assign feature stories, I keep in mind my writers' distinct voices and writing styles, and then give them stories that pair well with those styles. I also assign stories that challenge those styles, to edge them to perfection.

As in all things, some writers are more open to perfecting their craft than others.

Still, writers needn't fear that editing and reworking their stories will result in those stories losing their unique characteristics. Unless you're relying on someone else to make significant fundamental changes (you shouldn't), even the changes you make will still sound like "you."

So now that you have that voice, how do you develop it? You write.

You write and write and write and write.

And you edit your own work. You pour through the story, line by line, word by word, and inspect it. What works? What doesn't work? What neededs to be expanded? Tightened? Eliminated all together?

Believe it or not, as much as editors are important to the perfection of the work, you are the best judge. Even in the newsroom, few changes are made without asking the reporters questions. Did you mean to say this? What doe this mean? Is it okay to change "this" to "this?"


And as you shape your work, it will not only read in your voice, it will read in your very best voice.

A unique story of your own told in a voice uniquely own: it's mind-jarring, isn't it?

Kinda makes you want to spend the day writing, doesn't it?

No comments: