To Figure Out Your Writing Voice

Today I made more Christmas cookies while listening to Christmas Jazz. In between batches, I took a few calls that both involved talking to writers about their writing journeys. I answered questions; I gave advice. I offered my opinions on agents, publishers, query letters, proposals, sample chapters, career authorship, and anything else one writer wondered about. Mostly, I looked back over the years and years of writing. I’m ten books in.

The two things that mattered most in developing the craft of writing involve teaching writing and daily writing. I love Parker Palmer’s quote: “We teach what we most need to learn.” Teaching writing helped me understand grammar and sentence variation, and when you read thousands of student essays over two decades of teaching, you’ll gain a sense of what works. You’ll notice technique. You’ll notice what works in a sentence.

Then, when I wrote every day myself, in the daily blog, I could try on different writing voices. It’s a weird process to try to match on the page a kind of voice that’s in your head. And you want it to sound like you. You don’t need to sound like anyone else. This takes an extraordinary amount of time, but then you find your written voice. This voice differs from the academic, scholarly voice from my PhD training. This voice differs from the narrative voice of young Elita Brown.

On your own writing journey, you’ll find a way to sound real. But it takes time. Think about how you’d teach writing. And write.

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