Kirsty Logan

Six Ways to Develop Your Writer's Voice by Kirsty Logan

Your writing voice can't be forced, but it's a vital part of creating stories that could only be written by you. It's your fingerprint, and it's tricky to define. Voice is that unique combination of language, syntax, theme, tone and plot that immediately tells us the difference between a story by Cormac McCarthy, Sarah Waters, Stephen King or F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here are some exercises to help develop your voice: 


1. Free-writing or automatic writing can help you to see the rhythms and word patterns in your natural voice. Write one page without stopping or over-thinking, then put it away for a week without looking at it. Return to it and highlight any words or phrases that interest you. Do another free-write starting with those words, then put that away for another week. Highlight the most unusual and compelling phrases, then ignore everything else. You should be left with words and ideas that hold power for you – your unique voice. 


2. Select three writers with a strong voice, then copy out at least one page of their work. This has to be written by hand on paper – no cheating! The idea is to experience the rhythms and word-combinations of other writers to see what feels best to you. Of course, you should never copy another writer's style, but this can help give you a feel for the sort of thing that fits you.  


3. Good writing doesn't always mean big words. Experiment with cramming lots of description and multisyllabic words into your writing – then try paring it right back again. See if you can find a middle ground that feels right for you. 


4. Some writers like to play with language and structure in ususual ways, and some prefer to tell a good story in straightforward language. Try writing a fairy-tale in simple words, then contrast that with some OuLiPo techniques (lipograms, N+7 and snowball poems are all fun). These experiments are not about getting publishable work, but about figuring out what you like to write. 


5. Think of any writing you do for social media – blogging, Twitter, Google+ – as developing your voice. You might not usually select your words as carefully for a tweet as you would for a poem, but get into the habit of always choosing the best word and conveying your thoughts in a clear and interesting way. 


6. Keep writing! It's okay if your exercises feel clumsy or unfinished – it doesn't make sense to compare them to published work that has been edited dozens of times by professionals. The most famous and well-respected writers have written millions of words that no-one will ever see. Like any skill, writing requires many hours of practice. 


Don't worry if you feel that you don't have a strong voice yet – the more you write, the more it will develop. Whether powerfully sparse or descriptively lush, your voice is what will make your writing unique. Developing your writer's voice is an ongoing process, and every single thing you write will build it further. 

For further writing inspiration from Kirsty, visit her website 

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