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Write With Your Own Voice

Many beginning writers make one mistake that dooms their books to failure.

They avoid putting themselves into their writing, thinking that an objective, personality-free tone will make them sound more professional. Instead, they end up producing a dry, lifeless manuscript that readers will put aside.

What Does Voice Mean?

Voice isn’t the same as style. Developing your writer’s voice doesn’t mean that you try to develop a unique way of writing like James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway. It means developing the voice that’s uniquely yours.

In “4 Ways to Start Writing Like an Expert,” Tamara Powell writes:

“One of the best writing tips I’ve ever received came from my writing group. A fellow grad student sensed that a member of the group felt he needed to talk about a concept in the same way as its originator, and the student encouraged his friend by saying:

‘Don’t surrender your voice to talk about other people’s ideas on their terms. Tell your story and use it to illuminate the ideas of others.’

As an apprentice in your field, it can be tempting to hide behind the voice and vocabulary of someone more established. And yes, it can be helpful to try others’ techniques while you’re learning, but eventually, you have to start speaking for yourself. If you don’t adopt your own voice, you’ll never add to the ideas of others—you’ll stay stuck trying to sound like everyone else.”

How I Use My Voice

I have never written my autobiography or a memoir, but every book I’ve written has personal anecdotes.

I write about my children and my husband, which tells readers that I, like many of them, have had to juggle family and career.

I describe my challenges in starting and running a successful business. I’m candid about my mistakes, which teaches my readers that missteps don’t have to be fatal.

I share how I felt tense, embarrassed, and vulnerable when opposing lawyers questioned me as an expert witness and what I’ve learned about staying cool under pressure.

Basically, I say, “I’m a human being who has concerns, who fails at times, and who keeps going. So can you.”

Help the Reader to Identify With You

This is the ultimate point of writing in your own voice. You don’t want the reader to think, “This person is an expert. This person never made a wrong move. He/she would never understand what I go through.”

You want that reader to feel that you’ve been through what they are experiencing, that you’ve made mistakes, and that you will no doubt continue to make mistakes.

You want them to feel that you’re on their side and that you’ve written this book to help them through their rough spots.

If you succeed in doing that, you’ll be speaking to them with your voice—loud and clear.

Pat Iyer has written or edited 49 of her own books. As a book coach and editor, she loves to help her clients finish their books – in their voice. Go to PatIyer.com to connect with Pat.

Patricia Iyer

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