Monday, February 27, 2012

Crafting a Distinctive Writing Voice

I love to occasionally revisit basic craft on this blog. I think we always learn something from it. Take today's subject, as an example. Many of the readers of this blog have developed a voice, of course, but what of the time they run into a topic or theme that seems to call out for something else.  How about examining the tone of your "usual" voice to see if it can be tweaked? Today's guest Nadia Jones is new to this blog. Enjoy!

How to craft a distinctive writing voice

Guest Post by Nadia Jones

The late Christopher Hitchens wrote often about the art of writing. In his early years as a journalist, he found writing to be a laborious task that felt forced and left him feeling uninspired. In one of his last essays he spoke about the simple yet lasting bit of advice given to him by Sam Hoggart of The Guardian that changed his writing style forever. He told Hitchens to write “more like the way that [he] talk[ed],” and he found writing to be much more natural thereafter. Had he never realized the power of his writing voice, we may have never had the opportunity to read some of his best works.

As a writer, you should strive to find that same “aha!” moment where you come to realize the power or your individual voice as a writer. Almost all writers start with the same generic narrative voice, the one that blandly depicts thoughts, events, dialogue, and characterization through basic description. This is the voice that children employ in elementary and middle school writing exercises, the kind of voice that you would expect to read if the average person were forced to write about their day—just the facts.
Writers, of course, could never sustain any kind of fruitful career with that kind of bland writing style. No one wants to read uninteresting stories with little to offer in the way of imagination or depth of meaning. So how do you hone a style that communicates your individual perspective, whether you’re writing fiction or otherwise?
Somewhat paradoxically, I think the best method of discovering your distinctive writing voice is by studying the prominent writers that inspire you. If you’re an aspiring short story writer with a penchant for the sparse prose of Raymond Carver or Ernest Hemingway, look to their works as sources of inspiration. Write stories as if you were their ghostwriter, imitating their style and word usage. Eventually after you do this for a while you’ll find that you run into areas that don’t quite sound right to your writing ear, or you’ll have a desire to tweak the written aesthetics of a piece. This is where your distinctive writing voice comes into play, at the point where you have to stop and tweak an imitation piece so it better fits your preferences. Before you know it, you’ll start writing stories in a style that’s entirely your own, and you won’t need the crutch of imitation to keep you afloat stylistically.

While you may very well develop a unique writing voice, it’s important to bear in mind that you’ll never be free of stylistic comparisons. Any work in fiction, nonfiction, or journalism by a prominent author will inevitably spark a comparison to some earlier forbearer whose work will seem foundational to the present author’s writing style or content. And this is to be expected of all writers; you’re not reinventing the English language, you’re simply furthering its tradition.


Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.

-----
Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second ediction of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor . If your followers at Twitter would benefit from this blog post, please use the little Green widget to let them know about this blog:

Search This Blog