In the Youtube Ask a Mentor chats, when discussing what grabs them in the first few pages of a book, the fabulous PitchWars mentors ? consistently said it was “voice.” If you, as an author, have a strong voice, then your novel will resonate and draw the reader in.
So what exactly is voice?
It’s your style. It is what you say and how you say it.
Elton John is a great example. He knows precisely what he wants to say, how he wants to say it, and what he’s going to wear when he’s saying it.
Today’s podcast review was The Creative Penn’s interview with Julia McCutchen. Julia, former publisher and now writers’ coach and mentor, talked about developing authentic voice.
Protip: “Write from your heart but also pay attention to what the public marketplace wants.”
Julia surprised me. She said that developing your own unique style is all about being present. (You know, like “The Power of Now” kind.)
I’m continually amazed at how much advice on how to be successful and happy comes back to the concept of being present. Apparently, all roads lead to Eckhart Tolle.
We’ll get back to that meditation stuff in a bit. First, let’s talk about the benefits of developing your voice, your own signature style. Julia said that the market craves authenticity. “Authenticity is what people want from you — they want this whole real connection.”
She offered 5 steps to discovering voice (fair warning, these are not steps you can take in a few minutes):
- Stop, be still, and pause. Julia talked about surviving a tragic accident, which forced her to take space, reflect, and think deeply about who she was and what she wanted. She urged listeners to create the time and space needed to bring themselves into awareness of the present moment. She recommended authors do this as often as possible, many times a day, to bring us to a more authentic space. (This isn’t what you were expecting, right? I’m right there with you.)
- Embrace the mystery. Your conscious mind doesn’t always have the answers. Let go of desire to pin down the voice and get used to not knowing. Live with the questions until the answers present themselves. Be receptive to the journey. (Ugh, this is a be-more-patient lesson — I hate this lesson.)
- Sharpen your senses. Work at constantly being aware of all five senses and your feelings as well. Bring awareness to the sharpness to what your senses deliver up. Listening is a very important skill for developing voice. Listen to stories and be curious, which is outer listening, and listen to what’s happening inside you, inner listening. (I’m legit on board with this. I’m all about steeping in my environment and using it as fodder for my next written work.)
- Explore new possibilities. Play with this practice. Don’t try too hard to get it right. Just accept that discovering your voice is an ever-deepening journey. (And we’re back to being patient.)
- Go with the flow. Nurture the seeds of the first sparks of understanding. When you gain clarity, allow this understanding to unfold. You’ll know when you are on track when you feel clarity and joy — you’ll be discovering your authentic voice.
Okay, so I’m not going to argue with the expert here. I believe Julia when she says that a self-reflective and meditative approach will help authors discover who they are, deep down, what they want to communicate, and also precisely how they want to share that message. That long and excruciating journey will very likely lead an author to discover her (or his or their) authentic voice.
But I’m impatient. I want my voice now!
I’m sorry. I wasn’t being authentic ? I kinda feel that I have a voice already. It may need a bit of fine-tuning though, so I’m going to focus in on Step 3, because there’s some seriously good stuff there.
Sharpening senses will lead to writing in deeper perspective. That will help me to draw the reader in more. That is what I want.
So, did this podcast help me? Yeah, kinda. I guess. Did it help you? Meditate on that and let me know on Twitter ?
TL;DR: Keep it real. Figure out who you are, and then lean in.