by Kathy Harris
If you’re going to get heard, you can’t just raise your voice. You’ve got to set yourself apart, showing you have something special to say, and that you have a unique way of saying it. — Jeff Goins, author, blogger, speaker
I could barely squeak out my words much less raise my voice over the holidays after being hit with an upper respiratory bug. Living with partial laryngitis for the better part of a week was not only uncomfortable, it was frustrating. And it significantly altered how people reacted to me.
It’s much the same with our writer’s voice, the means by which we communicate to our audience, or potential audience. In fact, our voice is, arguably, the most important tool we have to set ourselves apart and to gain—or lose—a reader’s attention.
But what exactly is a writer’s voice?
It’s difficult to find a definition. After an extensive search online, one of the best sources I found was a Writer’s Digest piece by Cris Freese, Voice in Writing: Developing a Unique Writing Voice (September 12, 2013). In his article, Cris, who is the former managing editor of Writer’s Digest Books, cites an excerpt from Donald Maass’ well-known craft book Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level (Writer’s Digest Books, 2002).
“(Voice is) not only a unique way of putting words together,” Maass says. “But a unique sensibility, a distinctive way of looking at the world, an outlook that enriches an author’s oeuvre… To set your voice free, set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning. No one can loan that or teach you that. Your voice is your self in the story.”
Maass’ words suggest more of an idea or inspiration than a “how to” or definition. So, digging through additional quotes online, I pieced together further inspiration about voice. Some came from surprising sources.
Voice is who you are. “The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.” — Neil Gaiman, author, poet, journalist
A writer’s voice encompasses everything about us, from our personalities to our dreams. It’s the words we choose. And how we string them together. It’s the commas, the dialogue tags, and the length of our sentences. But it’s also who we are.
It takes courage to speak (or write) in your own voice. “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs, Apple Computer co-founder and technological visionary
The late Steve Jobs may not have been speaking directly about a writer’s voice, but his words are applicable. In this world of copycats and me too’s, it takes courage to express our deepest feelings, to write outside of established genre lines, and to write the stories of our heart.
You are the only one who can tell your stories. “…your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born.” — Anne Lamott
Leave it to Anne to edify and inspire! Which brings us to the final quote.
Your voice should inspire. More than two decades ago, businessman, motivational speaker, and author of the bestselling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey, reminded us to use our voice to ‘pass it on.’
“Find your voice.” Covey wrote. “And inspire others to find theirs.”
So… now that you know the importance of your writer’s voice, how will you define your own?I Have a Voice! Be #courageous and #write like nobody else can. @DivineDetour #amwriting #ACFWblogs #writingtips via @ACFWTweets Click To Tweet
Kathy Harris is the author of women’s fiction and romantic suspense. Her latest novel, Deadly Commitment (New Hope Publishing, October 2019), will release in large print on February 1. Read Kathy’s blog or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.