Finding Your Writing Voice

At every conference I’ve attended, the process to find your unique voice has been hammered into my head like a railroad spike. The question is, how do you find your voice?

Great question, fellow writer.

The answer? Write. A lot. Keep writing. Copy other writers until you find your unique voice. Simple? Nope.

When I started writing my yet-to-be-published novel in 2008 (yup, eight years ago), I wanted to write like Rosamind Pilcher. Beautiful, flowing descriptions. British accents galore. When I read my first few chapters back, out loud, it sounded phony. Definitely not my style. Not my voice.

I tried emulating Francine Rivers. I read her books and copied her voice. That didn’t work either.

It took thousands of words and countless hours to find my voice. Experts say to reach success, it takes ten thousand hours. A quick calculation of ten thousand divided by eight years, yields 1,250 hours per year. Divided by 365 is approximately 3 ½ hours per day. Think on that while you read on.

Below are three examples from some random authors. See if you can determine which one is Anne Lamott:

Example # 1:

People rarely took any notice of the tongue-tied and sadly inhibited Missy Wright, but Una, as the new assistant was named, had seemed instantly to detect in Missy the stuff of a good friend.

Example # 2:

The next morning, Elizabeth was on her knees weeding in the flower bed near Rosie’s window, impatiens and columbine. Rosie discovered this when she threw her window open, her room already hot and bright with sunshine. She said hello to her mother, and her mother answered, “Hello, darling. What are your plans for today?

Jeez, Rosie thought, it was like living with a secret agent.

Example #3:

Monday mornings had never been FBI Special Agent Savannah Barrett’s favorite day. Lawbreakers did their best work during the weekend. She stared at the crime report on her computer. Another Houston church burned during the night. This was her city, her responsibility, and the fourth church torched in the past two months.

Which one do you think sounds most like Anne Lamott? If you picked number two, you are correct. Her voice combines beautiful descriptions, gritty dialog, and snarky undertones. The paragraph is from her novel Imperfect Birds.

Have you grasped the enormity of what it takes to find your voice? Does the thought of 3 ½ hours a day for 8 years scare you? I hope not.

About Jane S. Daly 9 Articles

Jane Daly – Banker by day, blogger by night. She was recently awarded the Excellence in Editing award for her book, The Caregiving Season, and two Cascade Awards sponsored by Oregon Christian Writers. Jane is also the author of Because of Grace (2015) and is the treasurer of Inspire Christian Writers and West Coast Christian Writers.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you for your article on this subject.
    I am on the hunt for my voice. During the search, I do hear whispers, but others don’t always like it. Lol. Should our “voice” be widely understood and enjoyed?

    • Good question, Erin. In order to be true to ourselves and our God-given gift, we have to write with honesty. Sometimes people won’t like what we’ve written, nor will they understand. One simple explanation of ‘voice’ is letting your characters’ personalities filter through your unique world view.

    • Erin, I’ve learned and am continuing to learn to be content with trying to please God alone. There’s no way I can possibly please all readers. But, because the Lord gave us our voices and the messages we write for His glory, I truly believe He ensures our work is designed to minister to specific readers.

      Sometimes that reader is me, and only me. Sometimes it’s someone close to me and will never reach a wider audience.

      As Christ followers, it’s up to us to be obedient and up to Him to determine how to use our offerings.

      I know it’s hard to hear that someone doesn’t “like” our voice. But, the Lord only gives each of us one voice. So, we really have no choice but to use the special, God-given voice He’s given us.

      Write on, Sister!

        • Erin, that’s not strange at all! We need each other, Sister. That’s one of the reasons I joined Inspire Christian Writers. I’ve grown more in the years as an Inspire member than in the decade I tried to navigate through my writing journey alone. Although I had support before, this community continues to offer an incredible source of prayer, encouragement, and training that equips me to follow God’s leading regarding my writing.

          Thanks for blessing me with your kind words. It’s so easy to feel like our words land on deaf ears, like they are meaningless and useless. But when we place our offerings in God’s hands, nothing is wasted. Hallelujah!

          I pray you will write with Spirit-empowered courage and enjoy the wonderful adventure God has planned for you, Sister. May His name be glorified in all we say, do, think, and write!

  2. I love how you studied famous writers and wrote in their voices at first–I’ve done the same and I think it’s an important stop along the journey of finding your own writing voice. It seems to take a while, too, to feel comfortable in your own voice on the page.

  3. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey in discovering your voice, Jane. After allowing negative feedback to convince me my voice wasn’t good enough, I tried to sound different. Over the years, the Lord set me free from the lies that smothered the voice He’d given me and helped me appreciate the unique voices He’s given others.

    I received a compliment that stirs my courage when I’m tempted to try to sound like anyone else but me. Before a writer shared feedback on my project, she said, “I knew this was your work, even before I looked at your name. It sounds like you.” Another writing professional told me that my brand is “me.” She said, “There’s only one of you and that’s who readers want to know, that’s who readers want to hear when they read the words you write.”

    I appreciate how you affirmed how important it is to practice writing. I’ve learned it takes more practice than I realized to feel comfortable in my own skin, and to feel comfortable with my God-given pen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*