Writing Exercise: V is for Voice

Photo by João Marinho on Unsplash

Find your voice. In writing, in singing, in the world. Candence, rhythm, volume, smoothness, word choices – these are your own and no one else’s. Claim them.

Your Voice might change between blog posts and novels, talking to adults in a professional environment and children on the playground, singing blues or rock. But still, at the core, it’s your Voice.

It takes time to find your Voice. Understanding. Writing a lot of words or singing a lot of different songs. My voice has children and playfulness, short phrases haphazardly put together, and then weird asides of scientific thought.

If when people say, “I heard you read when I read your novel.” your speaking and writing voice are the same and it’s coming through (yay!). But sometimes the speaking and writing voice are completely different. As is genre changing things up and your different characters might have different personal voices (wait, no MIGHT – they SHOULD have different voices).

Kalayna Price has a wonderful blog posting “On Voice and Timing” in Magical Words (10/1/2011). URL: http://www.magicalwords.net/kalayna-price/on-voice-and-timing/

WRITING EXERCISE: Think about your writing voice and write down what you know about it. Is it short and sweet or long and detailed? Political or fluffy or introspective or…? What writing strengths do you have – dialog, action, characters, etc.?

Now, write one paragraph with a voice aimed at Fantasy (your choice of Urban, High, Sword & Sorcery, etc.) and a second one for  “real life” type genres (Murder Mystery, Thriller, Horror Contemporary, Disaster, Romance Contemporary, etc.). Have the scenes in the paragraph be similar number of characters and situation. How did the Genre Voice change the paragraph … and what things remained the same between the two scenes that could be your underlying voice and how does that match up to your initial thoughts about your voice?

Voice – Sing Loud

Late night conversations between writer-editor types:

Person A: I have a book keeping me up all night so I’m too tired to actually write it. … And I’m convinced it sucks.

Person B: I guarantee it doesn’t suck. You don’t write suck. And if it’s keeping you up all night, that means your brilliant Writer brain is processing it, so it’s only getting better. Courage, goddess, courage!

Person C: Hugs. Ever had those moments when you read other people’s words and you’re like “my stuff doesn’t sound anything like this?” And you start feeling like you’re not a real writer?

Person D: Oh. You mean a day that ends in -y … Yep.

Person B: All the time. But as the only agent I ever loved told me once when I was having that same crisis, “You can’t write that author’s book. But they can’t write yours, either.”

Person C: I feel like I’m so boring in comparison though

Person B: 1) You almost certainly are not boring; 2) this is the first draft; you’ll be tightening it up and making it more exciting later; right now, get it on the fucking page

Erin Penn: There have been people who books I read that make me not write for a time (Darren Kennedy is one), but at the end of the day, they don’t have my voice and I don’t have theirs. My music isn’t their music – they can’t sing the songs I sing. Sing loud – sometimes you will sing row-your-boat, and sometimes it will be bohemian-rhapsody.

Any song sung requires practice – from first draft to final performance. And the first time, singing a new song sucks.

But remember, no one needs to hear the practice. Only the witness the final performance.

Other Cool Blogs: SimpleWriting.com – Voice

Voice – what is it? The special sauce of authors which make them stand out in the crowd. But what is it, exactly?
Leah McClellan gives one of the best explanations I have ever read in “Writer’s Voice: What is it and how to develop yours” for simplewriting.com. Please note that this article isn’t timestamped, but the earliest article is from 2013. Also note that the website is not “https” – it’s only “http”, so your protection may say it isn’t secure and safe. Great article, but visit with caution.

Other Cool Blogs: Magical Words 5/17/2011

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Circling back to April’s posting on voice, Misty Massey had an excellent followup in Letting Your Voice Be Heard about her struggles to find her voice. Initially, she was scared of its formality, and her agent confirmed her worst fears. She fought with her writer’s voice, afraid to let it shine, to let others see it.

Then she found it.

That is the thing, unlike everything else a writer has to develop, skills which need to be gained – voice is always there. It needs to be uncovered, lifted above all the formal learning and how one “should” sound. It just is.

Once found, it can be sharpened and polished.

As always read the comments, each shows a different author’s approach to voice. And there is an additional commentary about how voices can be influenced by gatekeepers such as your editor.

Again the post is: http://www.magicalwords.net/misty-massey/letting-your-voice-be-heard/

Other Magical Words posts on Voice can be found here:

(6/16/2008) Finding Your Writing Voice by David B. Coe –

(1/18/2010) Writing Your Book, part II: Finding Your Voice by David B. Coe –

Other Cool Blogs: Simple Writing 2013

Quote by Erma Bombeck appearing on Girlfriendology.com


You always hear about how editors are looking for a distinctive “writer’s voice”, like they look for good hooks, characters, worldbuilding and plot. But no one can define “writer’s voice” – is it word choice, is it sentence structure, is it topic, is it genre? What is it?

Leah McClellan’s blog for Simple Writing on “Writer’s Voice: What it is and how to develop yours” (http://simplewriting.org/writers-voice/) tackles the subject head on.

WRITING EXERCISE: Now you have reviewed the article, do you know what feeds into your writer’s voice to make it unique? Sit down with at least six months of your writing and/or at least five different stories and see where the similarities lie. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your voice? Based on your analysis what should you write and what should you avoid?

READING EXERCISE: What type of voice draws you? Go to your bookshelves or electronic reading device. Find three authors from three different genres (if possible) which you have three books or more for (a series only counts as one book). If you have a full shelf devoted to them, even better. What do they have in common? How are they different from other writers in their genre?

MY WRITING EXAMPLE: So what do I think my voice is? Well people have wrote the following reviewing my book and editing my work:

From an editor “Nice. I’m really digging this character, and the closeness of the brothers. Even in such a short amount of time, I feel like I could easily meet these guys somewhere in my hometown. Very solid. “

From a different editor “Very real characters. “

From a reviewer “…easy to get to know the characters.”

From another reviewer “I felt that when I started reading HONESTLY, like wait, do I know these people? … The story and characters were easily understood and relatable right away,”

So I know my voice is about the characters. Not just that I write good or believable characters who make decisions in a logical manner, but characters which people know, that they relate to, that they swear they have met on the street. Nearly every review, critique, or feedback I receive from people focuses on this.

What are my weaknesses? Well, that would be action. I am just not action-oriented. I’ve worked hard on any romantic choreography and fight scenes I’ve written. Writing a thriller or a story primarily about a fighter would be an exercise in mediocrity and frustration. Any attempt at long-form urban fantasy ending with a big-bad fight scene will push my limits and writing style.

And I am not sure if this is a weakness, strength, or just integral to my voice, but I think in phrases, not sentences. (Which the sentence proves.) When writing my first draft, either everything is sentence fragments or unending run-on sentences. No real in-between for me. I go over everything a lot to create a more proper grammatical final product. Which makes the weakness of being bad at action from the selling-money-making standpoint depressing, because my natural wording works great for action-packed scenes. The thinking in phrases makes writing historical fiction difficult since their speaking structure is more formal and connected. When writing I go over the speaking dialogue a lot to make certain not everyone sounds like me.

Also in the language diction area, I have fun combining different ideas together. I love oxymorons and other clever word combinations. I try to avoid puns in writing as a kindness to my readers; also, a kindness to me – reading the pun through three drafts and three editing cycles and a print review gets old.

Now what happens when I line all my stories up? What are the similarities I see? Well, somehow family is always involved. In Honestly, Kassandra’s son drives nearly all of her decision-making and Troy’s father is integral to his life. In Cons of Romance the heroine has adopted family she will not turn her back on, and the hero makes several decisions based on his nearly grown children. Other stories have two brothers deal with aliens and the alien parents, a superhero rescuing his mother from a couple of villain (who are cousins of each other, not the superhero and his mom), a single mother raising her two boys, and a girl discovering being the sister to the anti-Christ carries a unique set of responsibilities.

Another similarity is humor. Most stories have mild humor. Not slapstick or laugh-out-loud funny jokes, but something a reader smiles at, recognizing life. One of my favorite paragraphs from Honestly is

Oh crap, did Dewayne wake the whole building? It was close to ten. No one was going to be happy with her. At least most of young kids were in bed, and if they were anything like her three-year-old, they would sleep through a nuclear bomb. So long as they didn’t need a glass of water.

I also tend to sneak in some learning to make the world bigger than just to story window a reader looks through. Pieces of information walk through on the street and you see them enter the window one side and leave by another. In Honestly, beer and amputations star in some scenes. Cons of Romance begins with the activity of a convention and part of the relationship between the main characters is developing as writers. I’ve had flashes ranging from how 3-D printing might affect our lives in the future and a Roman legion which disappeared in Ireland.

My themes tend to include love and hope. Love of family, sexual love, love of learning. Hope of tomorrow and it will most likely be better than today, and today was pretty good when you think about it. Even my Zombie apocalypse and attempts at horror stories are about hope, and that is saying something.

So what is my voice? Real-life believable characters, family, love, hope, humor, all written in short phrases with a unique turn of phrase on occasion. My “voice” would be perfect for humorist or hopeful literary fiction. Most of literary fiction is dreadfully downtrodden, so I don’t read it. Genre fiction, science fiction, fantasy, romance, and mystery, is about hope and I read genre by the crane lift. I guess if I continue writing someday someone might describe my voice as the “Emma Bombeck of genre fiction.” Or whomever is the family humorist of that time. Not a bad epithet.

Knowing my strengths and what fits my voice the best can help direct me in my writing, both artistically and business-wise. I should avoid historical romances, thriller, epic fantasy, and horror stories. Romantic urban fantasy is a strong contender, since humor, family and short phrasing all work well. Steampunk is questionable because of the flowery language of the historical setting; soft science fiction would work better than hard science fiction.

How about you? Do you agree with my assessment of myself? How about your analysis of your voice? Figuring out my voice took about five years after I started being serious about writing and I had been writing thirty-some years before that (oh, dear, did I just give away my age?). Anyway, no rush if you are still exploring your voice. Have fun writing.


Dorothy Gilman – cozy mystery writer of Mrs. Pollifax and like stories – Humorous, but very real, old lady, becomes a spy much to the enjoyment and worry of her handlers.

Jim Bernheimer – science fiction, fantasy, and superhero – Sarcastic, but very real, characters solving situations they find themselves in.

Christopher Stasheff – soft science fiction and fantasy writer – Lots of family solving issues arising out of life.

George Dickson – His Child Cycle series, usually considered military sci-fi, contains unexpected romantic bits and centers on the family dynamics of the Dorsai. His fantasy books have sly humor.

Needless to say the writers I enjoy the most have the combination of sly humor, family, and problem-solving life situations I like writing about. … And, aha, that is what I need to add more to my voice to harden it. More problem-solving life situations. I think I need to bring that to my long-form. My best flashes and short stories all include problem-solving.

I hope you get as much out of this exercise as I did. Be sure to comment below.