by Katie DePoppe
Sometimes one of the most difficult and elusive tasks when editing is pin-pointing a writer’s problems that go beyond grammar and syntax—style issues that we can’t necessarily say are right or wrong according to the proverbial book. Most specifically, I’m talking about the elusive problem of “voice”—the personality and life-perspective of the person who is telling the story; the special rhythm in which you as a writer relay what is most important to you from your unique place in the world. Voice is the single most important tool in captivating the reader.
A friend of mine who is attending seminary recently shared with me this quotation from Tim Keller: “When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone…two thinkers, you become confused…ten thinkers, you’ll begin to develop your own voice…two or three hundred thinkers, and you will become wise and develop your voice.”
Isn’t that fantastic advice?
While Tim Keller is speaking to budding Christian apologists, without knowing it, his advice falls in line with what I’ve found to be the most tried and true advice for writers everywhere who are still fighting to find their voices:
Read the works of those whose writing you admire and try to emulate it.
Read long and read wide. Start with those whose works you most admire. Read contemporary literature. Read the classics. Explore writers from beyond your comfort zone. With each, write down what you like best about each unique writer’s voice. (I aspire to Hemingway’s minimalism; to C.S. Lewis’ succinct, power-packed philosophical explanations, to Melanie Shankles’ comedic timing, and to Ann Voskamp’s practical poesy.)
Write in between your reading times with this ongoing list in the forefront of your mind.
And eventually—and sometimes without even realizing it—your voice will begin to emerge.
To learn more practical tips on finding your voice, check out Jeff Goins’ article "10 Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice."
Katie DePoppe is a co-founder and the editor at large for AZALEA, a magazine that celebrates the lifestyle, history, and culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry. She spends her days working in the library basement of a local university and her late nights tinkering with words she hopes will eventually appear on her personal blog, The Southern Apothecary (currently under re -construction), or in the pages of a Southern gothic short story collection. She lives with her husband and son, five dogs, twenty chickens, four peacocks, and a plethora of strays on her grandfather’s land near Charleston. She is a member of Word Weavers International, ACFW, and is a life-long member of Sigma Tau Delta, the International English Honor Society. Connect with Katie on Twitter @KDePoppe.