Your Natural Voice as a Writer

Clues From How the Caged Bird Sings

A long time ago, I met a young woman and in our first conversation, it came out that she sang with a choir. I told her I couldn’t sing, and I confided that I would love to be able to do it. I never forgot her reply.

—Chances are you can sing, first you have to find your range.

John James Audubon

Every Writer Has a Voice. Your voice, as a writer, is the style that makes your writing unique. It is the language you use and how you make your point. It’s what your readers hear and how it makes them feel.

Discover Your Voice. Just as you have a natural speaking voice, you have a writing voice that belongs only to you. It is shaped by your personality, beliefs and interests.

What you read has a great influence on your writing voice. The genres and authors you enjoy the most are a good indication of the direction where your voice lies. Use your reading to discover, explore and develop your voice.

Become familiar with your voice to put yourself in the best position for training.

Train Your Voice. Writers train by writing. Consider each piece of writing you create as a training exercise. The more you write, the more adept you will become at controlling your voice and the more comfortable you will become using it.

Aim to master your writing voice like a musician masters an instrument.

Your Voice Has a Range. At times, you will have to modify your writing style to suit a particular task. A romance novel, an article for Seventeen Magazine and a query letter each requires a different tone of voice.

Certain types of writing will be outside your range. Your comfort zone and your range are closely aligned. You can expand your range with training and passion.

Outside Influences Can Play a Role. A writer’s voice can also be shaped by his social environment and life experiences. Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy both wrote in Victorian-era England and their writings show it.

Mark Twain wrote about life in the United States and it’s no wonder that his voice is very different from that of Charles Dickens even though both use humor and satire in their writings.

Embrace Your Voice. Your voice is an asset. Once you have an idea of where your voice lies, embrace it. Celebrate it. Run with it. Write with style. Your voice is your style.

We are all blessed with a distinctive voice. Even if you model your writing after another’s, it will come out in your own voice.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Audience.

Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

John Steinbeck

Be Yourself. It’s a lot easier to be who you are if you’re comfortable in your own skin. Allow your writing to give voice to your inspirations. Be authentic.

Put Your Heart Into It. Give every piece you create your best effort. You’d notice if your favorite author, or favorite poet, made a halfhearted effort. The wellspring of great writing is an authentic voice that speaks with passion.

See also: Frea Shipley,  Finding Your Writing Voice: The Secret to Success.

Have you found your voice? Who influenced you?

Gary GauthierGary Gauthier is working on his first novel, a crime thriller set in New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. In real life, he works for a small publishing company no one’s ever heard of and that publishes books no one reads.

His blog, Literary Snippets, gives him an opportunity to express and share his appreciation for art and literature. He occasionally posts articles as well. Some of his favorite writers are Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe. But this changes from time to time. Stay tuned! Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.


45 responses to “Your Natural Voice as a Writer

  1. Pingback: Your Natural Voice as a Writer | Gary Gauthier

  2. Aloha Gary,

    Great article – and I couldn’t agree more… voice is sooo darn important!
    And, you’re right, once found, it should be cherished 🙂

  3. This is a great piece, Gary. Excellent analogy. I find fiction and short non-fiction to be my strongest voice, but I do stretch the vocal chords once in while, for practice and experience.

    • Hi Karen! I’m glad you like the analogy. Short stories were my favorite for a long time. Edgar Allan Poe kept me busy for a long time, from 7th grade through college. I’m sure his style has influenced my voice.

  4. The quote from John Steinbeck about writing to one person is a great idea. Whenever someone asks me what genre I write in I hesitate because there is no one answer and I wonder what to say. Now I will just say I write in my own voice! Good post Gary – ty

  5. Lesley, Thanks for visiting. It’s good to have a short, ready answer that works especially if it’s sincere. The Steinbeck quote resonates with me also, I’m going to remember it.

  6. Sounds like you’ve been busy writing and exploring writing styles, Gary! That’s awesome. But you’ve shocked me, I never expected you to use Amy Winehouse to make a point. LOL. Inspiring post, Sir!

  7. Ditto on being surprised you chose Amy Winehouse to illustrate your point! But what a great choice! Love her! I read Steinbeck’s quote some time ago and it was the single best tip I ever read for writing in my voice and being comfortable with it.
    I agree with your thoughts on training your voice and expanding the range. If a writer plans to be a professional author, it’s imperative to follow that advice. Excellent post, Gary!

  8. I’m glad you liked the post Marcia. Talk about having a voice and being authentic! That’s Amy for you.

  9. Pingback: Of Masks and Slashers: Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) « Sonia G Medeiros

  10. I loved your opening, Gary, about the singer telling you you just needed to find your range.

    And thanks for being flexible enough to switch days with me.

  11. Great post, as always! Voice is such an elusive concept, but you explain it beautifully!

  12. richardmonro731

    Gary, well done and great info. Thanks.

  13. Thanks for this post. Very timely for me.

  14. theresavarela

    This is an excellent post. Thank you! At times I feel as though I’m playing a well loved instrument as I tap the keys of my laptop. It makes my writing all that much sweeter.

  15. Sounds like you ‘get it,’ Theresa. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Guess What? I commented earlier that I would adopt and tahdah! It really did help me say what I meant …

    “I have independently published my own 4 books so far under this imprint … aspiring to one day publish other like-minded artists poets and authors. My voice is that of humanity and so I have written my books to encompass emotions and challenges that face everyday people. My focus is on connection and listening and being part of a gentler world.”

    Thanks – I needed this, Lesley

  17. This is one of the best explanations of voice that I have read. Most everyone knows they have to have it, but few can explain sufficiently what it is and how to develop it. Great post.

  18. I love what your friend said to you about singing and range. Voice is exactly what it sounds like. It is the quality (range, cadence, tone) of the sound that the reader hears when he or she reads what you’ve written. I really liked the way you described this often difficult to explain but vital characteristic of writing.

  19. Great blog. I’ve asked lots of writers, editors, publishers and teachers to explain how and where to find my voice. Your explanation is the is the best explanation I’ve heard.

  20. Thanks Katherine. The good news is that all our reading and writing is never wasted.

  21. I love the concept of range and tuning your voice. Eloquently said, Gary, as always.

  22. Thanks for visiting Elizabeth and for the kind words.

  23. I love this post! Especially, “Chances are you can sing, first you gave to find your range.” So very encouraging. And I love your suggestions for finding that range in our writing voice.

    • I’m happy you found a little encouragement from the post, Sonia. Thanks for the pingback and the plug from your blog. I didn’t set out to make the post inspirational. It just ended up that way on its own. Maybe it’s my voice.

  24. Excellent, well-written, and all good reminders. Thank you!
    Carole Avila
    Posse Member

  25. Thank you — this is so inspiring. The more you celebrate your voice, the more individual you sound.

  26. “We are all blessed with a distinctive voice. Even if you model your writing after another’s, it will come out in your own voice.”

    I love your post, Gary! And this line struck me most because I’ve seen too many fresh writers enamored with the style of another but stubbornly refusing to accept that writer’s influence on their own voice for fear it makes them look like copycats. Influences are good. No one can truly write like another, and if a writer’s voice bleeds into yours, it’s only because it resonates with you on a deeper level. I’m not saying anyone should copy, but allow yourself to learn and experiment, it’s a good way to find your tune.

    Thanks for a great post and very well made points. 🙂

  27. While I was doing some blog “stuff” I saw your face on a like you posted. I followed your link to another and another until I ended up here and here you are again.
    I like what I’ve read by you so far. I’m from Lafayette, LA. I’d be interested in reading your thriller.

  28. Pingback: It’s all About the Milestone Party « Sonia G Medeiros

  29. Pingback: A Basketfull of Great Articles - Cora J Ramos, Author

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