Establishing Your Voice

At some point along the writing journey, if you're really going to be serious about writing, you must love words. It's the decision between which words you like and which you hate and which you love that establishes your voice.

As a fiction writer in particular, you'll need to have a brand. Think of your favorite authors. Compare Colleen Coble, for instance, to Ted Dekker and James Scott Bell and Denise Hunter. What differences come to mind? Those differences are what differentiates each writer's voice from other writers' voices. Sometimes it's not easy to put your finger on what makes one person's voice different from another's. That's why I did this vblog to help you get a clearer idea what voice is. But for now, just think about the things that make writing sparkle: word choice, pacing, and rhythm, to name a few.

Let's say I'm going to write a scene where the character walks down a street. Boorrrring, right? Well, take a look at what happens when you add the dynamic of voice to that same scene. Check out the variations.

Gulliver tugged on his leash toward the house, but Molly pulled back. She wasn't ready to see her sister again. Not now, not after what happened. Why did Kristine have to go out and buy the house down the street?

Glimmers of sunlight traced the outside of the bird's shadow as the mockingbird sang its early morning song. Molly took a step closer, pushing the emptiness that shadowed her soul deeper inside.

Molly was just going to get the mail when she saw it. She all-but jumped behind the shelter of the nearby oak tree, but it was useless. He had seen her. The murderer.

See how the base level of action is the same in all three of these examples? Molly is hanging out in the road. But see how that action is twisted by word choice, perspective and pacing to bring out a different result?

So how do you develop your voice? Well, start paying attention to things you like, for starters. Do you tend to analyze things and see deeper issues in everyday life? Then you may find you have an easy time imbedding metaphors in your writing. Are you a funny person? Try your hand at comedy. Do what works best for you, what comes naturally, until that gets even easier. When I first started writing, I tried too hard to be literary, and it showed. It wasn't until I began writing comedy that I came into my own with voice.

Another question to ask yourself is, "What do I want to write?" Stop thinking so much about what you think you should be writing or what you have experience writing or even what a contest judge might've suggested. Ask yourself what you like, what makes you feel most satisfied about your writing, and then write that.

God has given you interests and personality that is unique to you. Work with that, not against it.

Questions for comment: Have you struggled with finding your writing voice? What helps you hone it, and do you have any questions or advice for others looking to improve their voice too? How will establishing your voice now benefit your future readers?


  1. Ashley, those are great questions you asked toward the end. What do I want to write as opposed to thinking so much about what I should write. I wrote women's fiction and tried literary fiction and while I loved it, it was definitely forced and I saw that in the feedback I got. But when I decided to give into writing what I enjoyed reading, I found my voice. Writing is even more fun now :)

  2. Oh, my friend. Were you talking right to me those last paragraphs?
    I am all about literary writing (as you know)...It's been a journey finding my balance with it, and with what readers want now-a-days. I have had to be more concise, but I still try and get those analogies in when I can! :)

  3. Love you ladies! I'm the same way. Before I stumbled into rom com, I was intent on writing more literary fiction, but it was terrible. Completely forced. And the ironic thing that happened is that once I stopped trying so hard to be literary, I started writing more natural literary depth into my stories. Interesting that you both had similar experiences!

  4. I struggle with many things with writing (grammar, for one), but I have always been complimented on having a good, strong voice. I just write, and write because I love it and have a heart for the story. Like you said, when you stop trying so hard, I guess that really lets your true voice shine! :)

    And I really have no idea what you all mean by 'literary fiction.' HA! Now I do feel very dense. (note to self: look up literary fiction)

  5. Dont feel dense, Heidi! Literary fiction is just a different type of fiction. Most classics, for instance, are considered "literary," whereas most of the books you'd buy at the bookstore (the more "fun" type books, with predictable endings) are considered commercial. Think of something like the Twilight books versus The Great Gatsby. Literary fiction is often more serious and "artistic" in style.