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January, 2008

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Find Your Voice
Putting yourself on the page
By  Mark London

Keep a daily journal, then read it back to yourself and you'll hear your writing voice.
There are many things unique in the universe -- planets, stars, DNA and you. Yes, you are unique.

But we'll come back to you later. Right now there are a few things you need to know before embarking on your quest for voice.

What makes a good writer? On a broad scale writers create something from nothing. To do this they perform the following: extensive reading, research, writing and editing -- all crucial to the creative process.

Now, finding your voice is trickier.

Read the following three items:

"But he wasn't. He was still here. You'd see his silver dome at Wimbledon the odd time. Or a telephoto paparazzi shot of Johnny on his boat. The possibilities, at least, still existed. But now they don't. He's gone. And gone with him is my dream to interview him -- well, not interview, as Johnny did interviews about as often as gradeschool kids read Shakespeare for fun -- and just hang."

"Another of my peeves is being accused of writing run-on sentences and I will admit that I have been known to be guilty of expressing a full train of thought in a sentence of enormous proportions, disregarding the period in order to convey my message, however I do not stand alone in this arena and for that I am thankful."

"Unless your characters are wildly inventive poets, space aliens, or children fostered by wolves, their dialogue and thoughts will include familiar expressions. Don't rob your Scarlett O'Hara of her "fiddle dee-dees" or deprive your Bogart of "doesn't amount to a hill of beans."

These excerpts are by separate writers, with three distinct writing voices.

The first, Daryl Jung IN Feb, 2005, a 25 year veteran journalist, writer and editor.

The second, Rowdy Rhodes IN April, 2005, a 10 year old voice on the writing scene.

The third, Anne Allen IN January, 2005, an established and well-known California novelist and book editor.

There are differences in all writing voices, the same as there are differences in Donald Rumsfeld's and George Bush's voices. Different sound, form, even words to express identical information.

A writer's voice is part of the writer. This article you're reading shouldn't sound condescending. It has my voice, one which, I hope, comes across like a friend chatting with you, not lecturing to you.

Most new writers make the mistake of choosing someone else's voice and start writing. Soon they find themselves lost in their words and, trust me, it's a strange feeling to read something you've written and it doesn't sound like you.

If you are writing non-fiction, then your voice is an image of yourself on the page. If you are writing fiction, then all of the characters have their own voices. For character voices to appear natural you invest time learning how that character should sound.

For example, write up three conversations: a Texan arguing with a police officer, an English prostitute plying trade, and a Canadian clerk denying a driver's license.

If you have done the proper research, their voices should sound nothing like yours, unless you're a Texan, hooker or clerk. Their voices should ring true to their character, a Texas drawl, a hooker's slang, a bureaucratic employee's drone.

To find and develop your own voice, write letters to a friend (delivery is optional) or keep a daily journal of your activities. Then read the material back to yourself a week later and you'll start to hear your own writing voice.

Analyze your voice. Is it deep, brooding, light, joyful, dry, statistical? Whatever sound, it's yours. Practice with it, develop it, because if you don't then it stands to reason you'll have no voice whatsoever and neither will your characters.

One thing to note will be your voice's consistency. In turn each of your characters' voices need consistency; your Texan's voice, arguing with a police officer, shouldn't change. However, if you haven't properly found that character's voice, then each day you add dialogue it will vary because of the influence of your own voice. Your voice slipping into the Texan's results in a muddled choice of words and expressions, making for a lousy piece of dialogue.

When writing non-fiction, don't think about how others might sound. Just let it flow, the way you would a letter or your journal. That helps you delve within and locate your real voice. It's a time consuming process, but it's an unavoidable one.

There are books on this subject, but the least expensive way to develop your voice is to let your thoughts flow onto the page and block out the world around you.

After all, it's your voice quest and your voice is unique. And, like new planets, stars, and DNA, it just takes time and effort to discover.IN Icon 

Mark London is an associate editor of IN. email:

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© Freelance Writing Organization - International 1999-2049

IN This Issue
The Write Group
Answering Submissions Calls
Part III: Have Ideas, Will Travel
Part II: Have Ideas, Will Travel
Part I: Have Ideas, Will Travel
Part II: Early Elementary Picture Books
Part I: Early Elementary Picture Books
Part II: Are These Mistakes Costing You Money?
Part I: Are These Mistakes Costing You Money?
Journey Within Your Mind

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Writer’s Block
The path to inspiration starts
Upon the trails we’ve known;
Each writer’s block is not a rock,
But just a stepping stone.

Poetry Is Not
Penned to the page
Waiting for us to admire.
It is only a lonely thought
Caught by tears on fire.

Silent Echoes
A quiet rhyme upon a page
Is what a poet gives;
Some gentle words whispered in trust
To see if memory lives.

Bard From Deadlines
What makes a poem finally work
Is not the time it takes;
It’s how the poet used the muse
To prophet from mistakes.

Be Mused
The art and craft of poetry
Are not so far apart;
The craft comes from the cunning,
The rest comes from the heart.

Fine Vintage
Don’t plant your poem on the page
As though you’re hanging drapes;
It’s shape and flow should come and grow
Like wild summer grapes.

Getting It Write
Writers write what they know best,
Their passions, fears, and dreams;
Writers rarely write about
What other call their “themes.”

Double Vision
A writer’s life is paradox,
It’s more than what it seems;
We write of our reality,
The one inside our dreams.

The echo of a promise,
The thunder of a sigh,
The music of a memory,
A child asking why.

Letter Perfect
Twenty six symbols arranged on a page
Can send a soul to heaven or torment it with rage,
Can free a fragile world or hold it in its net--
The power and the magic of the mighty alphabet.

The Write of Passage
The jump from writing just for fun
To getting paid for it
Begins when you first realize
You know you’ll never quit.

It is not the magic of his wings
That sets us free from our bond.
It is the muse within ourselves
That lets our words lift us beyond.

Photo Poet
Consider your mind the darkroom,
Consider your life the lens,
Consider your eye the camera
On whose focus the poem depends.

Rising Moon
A poem is a rising moon
Shining on the sea,
An afterglow of all we know,
Of all we hope to be.

Star Light
Writing a poem,
Reaching a star,
In making good art
We find who we are.

Spider Web
A poem is a spider web
Spun with words of wonder,
Woven lace held in place
By whispers made of thunder.

The final draft upon the screen,
At last my poem’s through;
A verse of only four short lines--
I rewrote twenty-two!

Read All Of Charles Ghigna's Poetry at

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