Many authors are in pursuit of a unique voice when they first start writing. They are in awe of the inexhaustible ways professionals write and desire to mimic that uniqueness. There is also an equal and opposite problem affecting these beginners that is ubiquitous. Everyday we are bombarded with language from our peers, from television, from the radio, and so on, and the impact of the exposure is in our language. What we hear and experience becomes our language, for better and worse. Authors seeking a unique voice must navigate a harsh environment to get there but there is a way to learn your unique way of expression rather quickly.
Don’t Copy the Professionals
Common writing advice is to copy passages of your favorite authors and then attempt to mimic their style. There is merit to the suggestion but it can develop writers who end up being lower fidelity copies of the mold(s) they used. The problem is seen after every major YA book that comes out. The Young Adult genre is great and provides accessible reading to children which ultimately rewards society, but more often than not, books following that major release become lesser copies of the same book.
This Stuff About Unique Voice
We are prone to using our most often used words and phrases as we write. We stick to familiar patterns and don’t often deviate from them. This is why some writers have a tendency to dabble in cliche. According to definition a cliche is, “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.” The problem isn’t unoriginal thought, though. Every one has a story worth telling, as the saying goes, but it’s the language and story telling ability that makes the story worth listening to.
Using cliches or already familiar patterns in your writing will lessen the impact of the work because it will seem unoriginal. The language will pale the emotion which you want to convey, giving it less impact.
Connecting the Dots
The author’s goal is to navigate both the language of professional authors and the minefield of cliches. A unique voice is a combination of these elements. One must use familiar, and at times outrageous, patterns and avoid expressing themselves in a generic manner all while conveying a story worth telling. It’s an arduous undertaking which is way many authors end up quitting. There is a way to navigate this critical training with more ease and it can get you to your unique voice faster than copying all those writers you love.
With an Active Mind, Write Slow
That’s it really. Write slow and mind and keep alert of your writing. The act of writing slow will get you the consider your words and phrases. You’ll ponder over what words and imagery to use as you approach places of your work. Some writers frown on this slowness but it is key in an author’s development. When you run into something critical in your work you must pause to consider the following:
- Should I express my idea this way?
- Should I use these words/phrases?
- Do my decisions give my work more coherence?
These three simple questions will jolt you away from any forced patterns you’ve formed a pattern of and into the process that will give your work a feeling of being completely and entirely from you. It doesn’t come easy and the process can feel more like a racket but in the end the value gained from this slower process is much more than what you’d gain through copying the greats.