What is my writing voice? Do I have one? These are questions that writers ask themselves a lot, as a voice is something we need to develop. But the bigger question is, how do we develop that voice?
I’m not entirely sure. I’ve done some reading on it (Linda Formichelli and Carol Tice give great writing advice, on this and other topics), and I try to play with certain techniques, but I’m never sure if I’ve really developed my own voice or not.
Granted, I’m partially not sure because I don’t have enough confidence in myself to believe I do have a clear voice. I think I’m starting to develop one, which is exciting. But if so, then I’m not sure if I could tell you what it is, or what’s distinctive about it.
I’m definitely trying to write in a less formal way. Coming from an academic background, that’s sometimes hard for me—though I was never fully fluent in academese in the first place. In fact, I hate academese. Always have. You know, that jargon-filled language that spouts giant, made up words ending in -ive and -ism (ie: the performative naturalism of hegemonic treefrogs). It’s often the art of using a lot of extra-long BS words to ultimately express very little.
Writing for blogs and magazines often requires an informal tone, and I generally prefer it. Part of that relaxedness comes from using lots of contractions: I’m instead of I am, it’s instead of it is—as long as it’s supposed to be it is, and not the possessive its. But that’s another issue.
I’ve also not shied away from using fragments and starting sentences with and, or, or but. Part of my brain cringes whenever I do this, because I know it’s incorrect grammar and breaks many of the established rules of writing, but I also feel that it adds personality and style. Perhaps an incorrect style, but there’s sort of no such thing.
Yeah, that’s the ticket! There’s no such thing as incorrect style. If there’s a right or wrong way to do it, then it’s not a personal style. Yeah, let’s go with that.
I’m also trying to write shorter paragraphs. That’s a challenge for me too, because I talk a lot. I like to talk, and I feel like I have a lot to say… hence this blog, I guess. I wonder if I feel I wasn’t clear enough the first time, so I repeat it a different way—or is it just that there’s so much to say on a topic. I’m a teacher too, so I like breaking things down into tiny pieces. Some of the pieces are related enough that they sound the same, but there’s a tiny kernel of difference that might be easy to miss. This makes it sound repetitive, instead of thorough, if you’re not fully paying attention.
I recently took a writing test for one of those content mills that a friend of mine had suggested. My friend Nicole Dieker is a brilliant freelancer who’s quickly made a very specific niche for herself and is doing really well. Don’t tell her, but I’m totally jealous of her.
I’ve heard good and bad things about content mills, and I still waffle about them. I could certainly use some extra money, but they don’t pay a lot and you don’t always get a byline. But I took the test anyway, sort of an audition for writing for the company. The article came together pretty fast, happily. If they pay too little, I’m at least going to try to limit the time I spend on it. I was pretty happy with the finished piece.
It was rejected. They gave me no feedback or notes, nothing to say why it was rejected; just the score is too low. Thanks but no thanks.
I didn’t have my heart set on the position or anything, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I was curious to know why they turned it down. How could I improve my writing if I don’t even know what I did wrong? I asked Nicole if she would take a look at it, which she kindly did.
The primary comment she made: “There’s too much personality in this.”
Wow! Apparently the style of this content mill is more generic. If that’s the case, then I’m a little glad I didn’t pass.
I was really pleased and encouraged to hear that. I clearly must have some kind of a voice if my writing actually has personality, right? I guess I’m on my way to developing a clear voice. Whether it is unique is another question, but at least I’m getting one. Yay!
So I ask you, dear readers (and I hope you’re out there!). Can you hear a clear, distinctive voice in my writing? What does it say to you? How would you characterize it? And if you’re a writer too, do you feel like you have your own voice? Let me know in the comments.