Voice is as crucial a part of writing as anything else – the characteristic style and flow of words that an author develops which inextricably associates their work with them.
It often takes a while to develop. You’ll know when you have, because your revisions will stop being filled with ‘rule application’ edits – you’ll have become comfortable with the flow of your own words and won’t be going back over them thinking ‘I can’t use Oxford commas, I’ve used too many passive words’, and so on. Control of that voice is the other half of the skill, one just as important as developing it in the first place. What’s more, authors really should look to develop more than one – it helps pitch the work specifically to purpose.
One way to do that quickly, which I’ve been pushing on this blog for a while, is to examine others’ voices – to practise writing ‘in the style of’ another author. Not so that you can emulate them, but so you can better understand, through doing it, exactly how they assembled their voice. Your own will emerge from that all the more quickly.
I use four, with some sub-variations:
- Journalist voice. This is the one I use on the blog and for my feature articles – and it’s very easy for me to do. I can write in it about as fast as I can think. It’s deliberately chatty.
- Non-fiction voices. I use these in my commercially published histories, with a couple of variations depending on purpose.
- Academic history voice. I don’t use this very often these days. This is the one where I convey the same information as in my non-fiction histories, but using the impenetrable vocabulary, obscure terminologies and deliberately clunky phrasing that academics require in order to assert status and self-worth to each other.
- Fiction voices. I have more than one of these, depending on purpose.
Have you developed your voice yet? And do you use more than one? Do tell.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015