Some of my favorite freelance work is helping companies refine or even create their brand voice. Walking clients through the process of defining what their company sounds like can range from magically easy to a longer, involved process that, at times, can seem just beyond reach. Regardless of the process, it’s thrilling to hear the words, “That’s it! You nailed it.”
That’s when the real fun begins. I love slipping into specific voices to write. A company’s voice can be as distinctive as a character in a novel. The more unique the voice, the more fun it is to pen.
However, with so much emphasis on hitting the right note with my clients, I worry about losing my own writing style and voice. When I switch from marketing copy to writing personal essays, it can take me a while to clear my mind and focus on hearing my voice.
For the last several years, I’ve made a point to work on strengthening my writing style. It still takes effort, but at least I know what sounds like me. And what doesn’t.
Here are some of my favorite tips for discovering your (writing) voice.
- Read. Don’t try to write like someone else – unless you’re being paid to temporarily adopt that voice. Figure out what makes the author’s voice unique. Is it the sentence structures? Specific word choice? A certain approach to descriptions? Think about how you can adapt these same tools in your writing.
- Record. I know, most people complain about the sound of their recorded voice. But this is a great way to hear yourself. It’s long been recommended as a way to edit your work for repetition and redundancy. It’s also a way to help you hear what’s unique about your use of words.
- Ask. Your friends, family and colleagues can be excellent resources for helping you figure out what’s unique about your voice. You may also find it helpful to ask them about your writing as well as your verbal voice. Even if you disagree, it could spark a few discoveries.
- Mimic your speaking voice. It may not be the voice that’s going to get your book published or get you into magazines, but it’s a great starting point. One of my favorite blogs is written by someone I’ve known all my life. She’s not a professional writer but she’s done such a great job of developing the whole blog around her voice that most of her posts sound just like she speaks.
- Get an editor. When I was an in-house editor for a company, my role was editing a wide variety of content. Within six months, I could identify an author of a rough draft even if it was printed hardcopy and left (with no name) on my desk. Even people who aren’t professional authors or aspiring writers have voices that speak loudly in their writing. An editor can help you identify yours.
What have you done that’s helped you identify your unique writing voice? Do you feel confident in your voice? What helped you get there?