The Writer's Voice: What Is It?

Sep 252009
 

imagesIn preparation for the panel I’m on at BlogHer Food 09 in San Francisco tomorrow, I thought I’d say a few words about voice.

Why is voice important? It’s because you have a personality that  comes through in  your writing. You might express your unique self through level of language, the length of your sentences, the way you approach a subject. You’ll know when it feels right when you read back your work. It will sound like you and feel comfortable. Without voice, your writing will be bland, and you won’t come through as an individual.

Can you describe your voice? It’s an elusive thing.  Ask a friend to describe it to you. Here are a few adjectives that might apply:

  • knowledgeable
  • friendly
  • honest
  • self-deprecating
  • companionable
  • poetic
  • confessional
  • obsessive
  • high-energy.

Think about voice as a philosophy about what you want to get across in your blog. Here are some examples:

  • If I can make this, you can make this
  • Girls just want to have fun
  • I’m going to get this right if I have to do it 100 times.

The best answer to creating a strong voice is just to keep writing, to let your voice develop and deepen over time. Take this advice from A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work, a book written for newspaper journalists: 1. Write the way you talk. 2. Execute the worst offenders (stuffy words). 3. Think small by using meaningful, specific words. 4. When you write a sentence, start with the subject. 5. Let ‘er rip – your first draft should be loose, fast, and accepting. 6. Avoid cliches. “Instead of ‘needle in a haystack,’ try for some other metaphor for one hard-to-see thing in a vast universe: ‘Just another drop of oil on an asphalt parking lot.’”

For more on voice and food writing, see my new interview with food blogger Traca Savagado of Seattle Tall Poppy, this post I wrote for the BlogHer, and fellow BlogHer panelist Garrett McCord’s post.

  7 Responses to “The Writer's Voice: What Is It?”

  1. Any writer can usually clarify or improve her written “voice” (unless she aims to sound like William Buckley) by simply focusing on active verbs.

  2. Great post on developing a voice. I absolutely agree that it takes time. I have a background in journalism, and thought food blogging would be relatively easy – but I was definitely wrong. I’m still learning and working on deepening my voice, and feel my writing get tighter with every post (at least I hope.)

    Can’t wait to hear you speak at BlogHer tomorrow!

  3. A much needed post. I’m developing a book project and a friend said, whatever you do don’t lose the “voice” in your blog. I’m still trying to figure what that is. I think I write in a conversational tone..but I’m very happy for your references here to clarify what this is.
    I wish I could be at the SF Food Blogher event. Maybe I’ll make it to Mexico.
    Have a terrific week-end!

  4. Nice interview with Tall Poppy-wish there was more of that kind of discussion at the BlogHer conference.

  5. Hi Dianne,

    I found your website through extensive research regarding cookbook proposals. I am a pastry chef who has finally decided to write the dessert cookbook I’ve been dreaming about for the past 3 years. I got really into the recipe writing (which I have experience in) until several food industry friends reeled me in with advice regarding cookbook proposals and starting a blog to practice writing about food. I’ve had your your book Will Write for Food on my “Things to Buy” list for a few weeks now. This past Monday, my sister handed me my belated birthday gift – a beautiful butterfly printed gift bag containing what else but your book! The funny thing is that I never even mentioned it to her. I read about 1/3 of it on the long subway ride home and it has given me the motivation to start my blog. I want to thank you for writing a book that needed to be written.

    http://thepastrychefathome.blogspot.com

  6. Hi Dianne,

    I found your website through extensive research regarding cookbook proposals. I am a pastry chef who has finally decided to write the dessert cookbook I’ve been dreaming about for the past 3 years. I got really into the recipe writing (which I have experience in) until several food industry friends reeled me in with advice regarding cookbook proposals and starting a blog to practice writing about food. I’ve had your your book Will Write for Food on my “Things to Buy” list for a few weeks now. This past Monday, my sister handed me my belated birthday gift – a beautiful butterfly printed gift bag containing what else but your book! The funny thing is that I never even mentioned it to her. I read about 1/3 of it on the long subway ride home and it has given me the motivation to start my blog. I want to thank you for writing a book that needed to be written.

    Best,

    Erika

    http://thepastrychefathome.blogspot.com

    • Thank you so much Erika. I hope you enjoy exercising your writer’s muscle in your new blog.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.