A Writer’s Voice



Whah…whah…whah.” Do you recognize that voice? Sure, it’s the teacher in Charlie Brown.

Each time you hear it, your brain makes certain connections and you know who is speaking.

But what exactly is a writer’s voice and how does a reader recognize it?

Well, a writer’s voice is unique to them. Readers recognize certain authors by the way they put words together—the distinctive way they look at the world.

Readers like, and thus “follow,” writers that have a recognizable voice—one that is original, like no one else’s.

So, give yourself the freedom to say things in your own unique way. Don’t try to copy another writer’s style.

Your voice is YOU shining through.

Become recognizable by allowing yourself to write in a style that is uniquely your own.

Did you lose your voice, or just have a “scratchy throat”?

I woke with a scratchy throat. An hour or so later, that was followed by chills and a fever. My energy was zapped and my strength gone by the middle of the day. I called for a substitute and went home to bed at 1:00 p.m.

I remained at home for the next 48 hours, but felt better by the middle of the week. I decided to try to go back to work.  I was able to maintain control of the class (if you’ve ever been a classroom teacher, you know what I mean…kids can sniff out a teacher who doesn’t feel quite up to par…) until shortly before noon when the unthinkable happened: I lost my voice.

That was when I lost control. When no one is listening, the effect can be devastating.

What happens to us, as writers, when we lose our “voice”? After all, let’s be honest, our voice is our writing and if we lose that, well, how does that affect our performance? And, is it possible to regain our voice after a brief lapse in technique, or a period of time when our creativity lags? When we just don’t feel we are quite hitting the mark with our words?

I think there are days, in any profession, when we are just “off”. For whatever the reason— illness, distractions, catastrophic events, difficulties in our interpersonal relationships, even changes in the weather—we just don’t perform to our expectations. We become disappointed in ourselves. We may even feel that we’ve let others down.

May I suggest that it may not be realistic to expect ourselves to function at optimal levels every day—each time the door opens, each time the bell rings?

God grants us grace, so why not follow His example and extend a measure of the same to ourselves? Remind ourselves that it’s o.k.  That although we may strive for perfection, it’s just not realistic to expect it of ourselves in each and every circumstance.

Let’s tell ourselves that things WILL get better because, you know what? They WILL!

You WILL find your niche, again. You WILL discover more hidden talents. You WILL reconnect with those creative ideas!

The computer keys will once again be pounded by a person ignited by the next great thought. That article or book will be completed by someone who was gentle enough with themselves to allow for days when ideas germinated, rather that came easily onto the page… days when they thought they’d lost their voice, only to find out that it was just resting a little…until their heart healed, until the things of life settled down once more, until they learned a difficult life lesson, until they took a break in the middle of the afternoon and went home to bed.


Balancing Act

If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of books somewhere in your house that keeps getting taller. It seems like every book you read is replaced by one or two more!

The fact is, writers like to read. Need to read.

I’m not just talking about pleasure reading, which is a “given”. Every writer I have ever met has told me that it was the love of reading that sparked within them the desire to write.

No, I’m talking about reading about writing. The craft. Punctuation and grammar to be sure, but also reading about genres, point-of-view, voice, character development, plot and hundreds of more things we need to consider—need to master—in pursuit of excellence.

Once I started writing, I quickly realized the necessity of erecting two stacks of books. One I dubbed “Pleasure”; the other, simply “About Writing”. I have a rule concerning these books: Read from both stacks, simultaneously, so that I fulfill my need for learning AND for enjoyment.

So, what’s next on my stacks? James Scott Bell’s How to Write Dazzling Dialogue and Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro are on top of the “About Writing” stack. And for pleasure, next up is Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.

So, whether you keep an actual physical stack of books, like I do, or simply a list of “Must Reads”, my suggestion is that you try to balance your reading. After all, didn’t you hear this expression as a child? “All work, and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”


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Who’s Voice Should I Listen To?

Will people like it? Is it a “page turner”? Are the characters believable?

If my mother were to answer these questions about my soon-to-be published book, she would answer “People will love it. I could hardly put it down!”  I could ask any number of family members and they’d answer the same.  Families.

If I’d pose the same question to my friends, I’d get a similar response.  Except, maybe for a few who read A LOT. They’d expound by adding comments about spelling, grammar, syntax, and verb tense.

Ah, but now, when my critique group is asked for their honest opinions, I get suggestions for improvement, pointing out issues with point-of-view, voice, and so on.

If I enter a writing contest, based on reading my synopsis and 10-15 pages, judges will use a rubric to assess such things as a good “hook”, marketability, professional impact, and pacing. They may even respond to the question of whether, if they were an editor, they would ask to see the entire manuscript, based on reading such a small writing sample.

From those comments—some from very prejudiced persons—I base my decision as to whether or not my book is ready to send to an editor, a publisher, or whether it is in need of extensive revision. Three groups of people, each with a unique connection to this writer, each with a different focus, each possessing varying degrees of expertise.

So, I’m left with a big decision. Which group, if any, should my professional-writing self listen to? The one with the most expertise? The group of avid readers? Professional judges?

And, if I do listen, do I act on their advice? Do I base my future actions on what they have to say? How much weight do I give their comments over my inner voice—the one that desires to move forward and get that first novel published?

Lots of opinions. Lots of questions. I’m not sure I have the answers—yet.

So, I make a decision to read yet another “how to” book, attend just one more professional conference, sign up for an additional writing course. With added confidence, I  decide to trust

the voice inside my head,

my gut,

my common sense,

what I know to be true.