I like to write [no surprise there [I also like brackets, no surprise there either]] – informal, formal, blogging, work-related, a book.* You name it; I probably like to write it. I also feel like I have a fairly strong writing voice. This is one of the reason’s I am a terrible editor; I will always think your writing needs to sound like my writing and have trouble making unbiased suggestions. Another reason I am a terrible editor is because I only have a basic grasp of grammar and don’t really care to get any better. Can you understand what I’m saying? Good enough.
So what is voice? Well, according to Wikipedia (yes, even historians reference Wikipedia occasionally) a writer’s voice is “the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). Voice can be thought of in terms of the uniqueness of a vocal voice machine. As a trumpet has a different voice than a tuba or a violin has a different voice than a viola, so the words of one author have a different sound than the words of another. One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice.”
My writing voice is not exactly how I talk, but it is how my ideal, anxiety-free, extroverted self talks. It is how I talk at home with my husband and close family. It contains a great deal of humor – sometimes funny, sometimes not – with way too many asides and descriptive phrases. While my blog writing is informal, it still has the same voice qualities as my more formal history writing. I say “more formal” because I rarely write anything in you might consider 100% formal – I just don’t like it. And the blog is relatively unfiltered. Tipsy and angry Playfullytacky cusses like a sailor. I try not to let that slide in, as it doesn’t represent the everyday me. But aside from that, I rarely spend a great deal of thought on how my writing comes across. Maybe that is a bad thing?
Over the years, I discovered that having a strong writing voice covers all sort of sins. Using the passive voice? No problem! Split infinitive? You silly, don’t do that again! When you sound like you know what you are doing, the regular reader overlooks a lot. Not editors though. Don’t try to pull a fast one on your editor.
How do you develop your voice? Damned if I know. Jack Kerouac knows though. These aren’t writing tips, but more of his guide to a writing life or a state of being. Here is his “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose” to get you started.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. Youre a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
*Yes, I wrote a book. But I can’t tell you what it is because this blog is semi-anonymous. It’s a history book though, so you probably don’t want to read it.