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How to write a novel. Tip #3: Developing your writing voice (part I)

Let’s start with the bad news.

This will take a while. And it will take some work. You won’t develop your writer’s voice overnight. Better to think of it as a process (since that’s pretty much what it is).

But once you actually discover your voice, you’ll be glad you took the time, and made the effort. Because, and that’s the good news, it’s what will set you apart from other writers, what will make your writing unique. And that’s a big deal.

Now that we’ve established that a writer’s voice is important, how do you go about developing it?

All right, time for the other bad news (yep, you should’ve seen that one coming).

A number of factors will influence your writing voice. Your personality, your books’ genre, your target audience, etc., but there’s no simple and clear way to discover it. Like I said … it’s more of a process.

Having said that, there are things you can do which will definitely help. First and foremost among those, is reading. You’re probably already familiar with that famous Stephen King quote on the subject (if not, by all means look it up).

The point is, reading is an essential part of writing.

The logical question would then be: What should you read?

That’s when things start to get really fuzzy. Different people will give different advice. Sometimes even contradicting one another.

Who then should you listen to?

Well, definitely not me … Just kidding (kind of).

  • Some writers recommend reading books in your genre. Clearly, it makes sense to study the writing style of other books in a similar category.

  • Some writers recommend reading books in a different genre. It makes sense too. That way there’s less chance you’ll end up copying another author’s voice.

You’ll need to keep that second bullet point in mind. The more books you read from a particular author, the more you run the risk of (inadvertently) imitating them. It’s only natural, especially if it’s an author you hold in high esteem. You’ll want to write as well as they do.

You might ask yourself, is that so bad?

The answer is yes.

You will never know all you can do, if all you do is try to imitate other people.

Personally, I think it’s OK to read books in your genre. There’s nothing wrong with trying to draw inspiration from books similar to yours. As long as you remind yourself that the goal is not to reproduce another writer’s voice, but rather to use it to find your own.

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