Everyone Has A Voice — Find Yours!

Posted: September 28, 2010 in Articles, For Writers
Tags: ,
Ball point pen (Biro) writing

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I know one way to guarantee failure in writing a good story: It’s by not writing it.

Writers and would-be writers often say “I can’t write,” or “I don’t have anything good to say,” or “My grammar sucks.”

Writing is not about great grammar. Often, it’s not about a great event. It’s about telling it, and telling it in your own voice.

If you’re on the fence about your own writing, try the following tips. You don’t have to show your work to anyone; you just have to practice. No pressure — just do it!

Pick a topic. Quit thinking you’re going to write the Great American Novel right out of the gate. You’re not. To write something amazing takes time, skill and practice. For now, write a memory about your grandmother, or think of the world’s most perfect food, or pretend you’re on a date with Jennifer Aniston. Or take one of the following statements and use it as your opening sentence, then just see where it takes you:

  • The room was dark, except for the ray of light creeping through the window from the solitary street lamp.
  • Frank was a quiet man, giving in to outbursts of rage and fury only when he felt a rather important matter was out of his control.
  • Bob was dead, thanks to a series of events that really no one could have foreseen.

(I have tons of these. I make them up all the time for my community writing class. If you want more, tell me. I will keep you busy!)

Plan a time. Once you’ve chosen a topic, make yourself write for 30 minutes, or another time that feels comfortable to you. Or if you’d rather, choose a page count (1 typed page, or 2 handwritten pages, or one whole notebook). Stick to that goal.

Think about the five senses. I heard this a long, long time ago, and it’s a really easy way to make sure you’re adding color and flavor to your piece. The point is to make the reader feel like he or she is there. In case you’ve forgotten them, they are:

  • smell
  • taste
  • touch
  • sight
  • sound

If you’re walking down the street in your story, do you smell hot dogs? Do you see gum stuck on the sidewalk? Do you hear horns honking?

Explain the action. Rather than, “I was arrested and put in jail,” say “The cops threw me against the car, handcuffed me, made me cry. I spent the night in a cold cell, peeing in a steel toilet I shared with Bertha.”

Wrap it up the way you want to. If you’re just practicing and no one’s going to read it, it’s OK if you want to kill off the main character or leave a few ideas hanging or create a musical scene that your friends would make fun of. It’s your story. You can’t find your own voice if you’re going to edit yourself before you get your ideas on paper.

Read it! You’ll love your awesomeness. Or you’ll realize you could do better and you’ll try something different next time. Or you’ll revisit it many months later and think, “Damn, I’m good.”

Everyone has a great voice, and everyone’s voice should be heard. Be yourself in your writing. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. And you’ll discover things about yourself you had no idea existed.

Do you have a process for writing you’d like to share? What have you learned about yourself through writing?

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

  1. flyinggma says:

    This is awesome as usual. How long have you been doing the community writing class? I attended a fiction writers workshop a couple of months ago. It was good with a lot of information but I don’t know if I’m cut out for fiction or not so I keep searching for more ideas.

    • Hi, Jeanne! I started the writing class nearly 2 years ago. We meet once a month and write from a prompt. Then, if so inspired, we share our work with the rest of the group. It’s been a great experience! I have been in other groups where the focus is on technique or on critique — but ours is solely to get our creative juices flowing. I bet you’re great at fiction! You should keep at it!

      • flyinggma says:

        I’d love to try one of your prompts to see what I could come up with. I’ve got a few ideas going on the “Frank was a quiet man…”. How much content do you usually come up with on one prompt at your class? Is it something you work on at the class or during the time between classes and then share at the next class? Sounds like fun!

  2. OK, I’ll send you a few! I usually give the class several prompts to choose from so they’ll have something that fits their style or interests. We work for 30-40 minutes in class and then share right then. We always plan a little time in the beginning for people to read anything they’ve written between classes.

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