One of the best – and most difficult – things to develop as a writer is your own ‘voice’. That X factor that makes your writing inherently, well, yours.
I’ll be visiting schools up and down the coast over the next few weeks, giving talks and presentations, including my very popular Find Your Writing Superpower workshop. (You can read the basic principles here.)
I always tell kids that the greatest writing superpower of all time is your own writing voice.
Write so that people know that the story is yours – even if they haven’t seen the byline (or, in my case, the cover).
Write like you talk, only better.
It sounds straight forward enough, but the reality is that it takes a LOT of courage to bring yourself to the page. Your sense of humour. Your way of thinking about the world. The quirky things you know and love.
Your feelings and emotions.
Fortunately, it’s a writing superpower we can all develop – we just have to dig down into those dark recesses of who we are and be happy to present them on the page for all to read.
Seriously, though, it’s about working your way past all the influences – every writer you’ve ever read and loved – and the obstacles – fear being the biggest one.
These five tips might help.
My top 5 tips for finding your writing voice
Tip #1: Start a journal
Your writing voice is like a shy child, hiding away behind your everyday conversations and communications. To coax them out of the dark recesses, you need to create a comfortable, cosy, quiet place.
For most writers, that’s a journal. Your journal can be a file on your computer or a beautiful notebook with fancy pen. Whatever works best for you to unlock the ability to get your thoughts on the page.
This is not a place to think about a reader. The relationship here is strictly between the writer and the page.
Write what you actually think. Capture snippets of your day. Write down thoughts, ideas, things that turned your head or captured your attention.
For me, as a working journalist at the time, it was a blog that helped me discover the intimacy I needed to tap into my fiction voice. As a professional journalist, I was used to writing – but I was not used to the intimate honesty I needed to bring to the page to make my stories sing.
Blogging gave me that (and I wrote about it here).
Tip #2: Try different things
Often, as writers, we form strong ideas very early about what we should be writing.
Just as often, this is what we love to read – and that’s a great place to start.
But it pays to experiment with different types of writing. You may have a very clear picture of yourself as a writer of literary fiction, but when you sit down to journal, what you’re actually loving is writing funny character studies or strong responses to opinion pieces you’ve read that day.
I was convinced I was going to be a writer of romance novels or commercial women’s fiction – until one day I sat down to write a middle-grade adventure novel and became consumed by it.
Write poetry. Try a screen play. Write short stories, or crime novels, or picture books.
Every time you try something new, you expand your writing muscles – and you’ll hear your voice more strongly.
Tip #3: Trust the writing
I wanted this tip to be ‘get out of your own way’, but I thought I’d best stick to the polite.
Finding your writing voice takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and trust the process. Every word you write brings you closer to understanding how you write and what you want to write about.
You’ll know when you’re there because the idea will sing to you and, no matter how difficult the writing becomes (and it can be difficult, trust me) you’ll keep showing up to your desk or your notebook to push through.
More about this here.
Tip #4: Show your inner editor the door
I don’t have a study to prove this but, anecdotally, I’m going to say that nobody ever found their writing voice with an editor sitting on their shoulder telling them that the last sentence wasn’t ‘perfect’.
Your journal doesn’t need to be grammatically correct and neither does the first draft of your novel or memoir. That first draft is about you learning what the story is about – even if you’ve planned it down to the last T on a spreadsheet.
Stories are like life, messy and complicated. We all begin with the vision of what the story needs to be perfect – and then characters start to make their own plans.
But, unlike life, with stories, we get to finish the first draft and then go back and try to make it match up to the perfect vision.
Bring the shouty voiced editor into the picture at that point and not before.
Tip #5: Don’t show anyone too early
Finding your writing voice is a solo adventure. Yes, feedback is essential at different points along the journey of any manuscript, but if you ask for it too early, you’re in danger of sounding like a choir, rather than the prima donna soloist you need to be.
Going back to the idea of intimacy and trust, trust yourself. At least until you’ve got enough of your story on paper to feel confident you know what you want to say.
Until you can hear yourself thinking in the words on the page.
Then a reader will be able to hear you too.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.
For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing a book is one thing – promoting that book is quite another..
But thinking outside the box about book publicity can give an author more avenues to promote their book, and is also very satisfying. All too often new authors worry about what’s not happening with their book, so taking control of what you can do really helps.
Nobody knows this better than Dani Vee, whose first picture book My EXTRAordinary Mum was published in 2022, and whose second book My EPIC Dad! Takes Us Camping (book one in a six-part series) is out now.
With many strings to her bow, including podcaster and commissioning editor, Dani was better placed than most debut authors to understand the nuts-and-bolts of book promotion – but even she found herself having to think outside the ‘publicity’ box to maximise her efforts.
Fortunately, she’s dropped by to share her experiences in this guest post.
Thinking outside the ‘publicity’ box as a newbie writer!
By Dani Vee
The excitement of signing my first book deal lasted about 10 seconds before the terror hit.
What if it didn’t sell and no-one ever signed me again?
Ten seconds. The exact amount of time we allow ourselves to celebrate!
Leaving nothing to chance, I created a juggernaut of a spreadsheet of all the bloggers, reviewers, podcasters and book people I could contact.
I planned book shop visits, a book launch, social media posts and contacted local newspapers and magazines.
But I also watched others, and what I noticed was that the most successful people were creating content outside their books. They were creating a story around their story.
My picture book My EXTRAordinary Mum had been written from my own experiences of motherhood – and I realised that created an opportunity I hadn’t yet tapped into.
Creating stories around your book
I started writing articles about identity after motherhood, the expectations of motherhood and who you’re ‘supposed’ to be, the challenges of single motherhood, feminism, and even what it was like having a Gwyneth Paltrow LAT (Living Apart Together) relationship.
In other words, I wrote about the ideas, thoughts and feelings that were behind my picture book. When it comes to publicity, you have to work to your strengths and show an authentic and vulnerable self. I think the more Instagram posts we like and the more filters we use, the more authenticity we crave – and it seemed to work.
Those articles were published by Mamamia, MamaMag, local newspapers and magazines and other media outlets interested in stories about motherhood, women and feminism.
Even though the articles were not directly about the book, they were topical. And they all featured my byline and my bio at the end – a bio that related directly to my book and led interested readers to my website to find out more.
How to find your story
You can do this too – all you need to do is to find an angle.
We know what your book is about, but what is it really about? What’s the story around the story?
What inspired it?
What is it about you and your experiences that resonate, inspire or interest others?
Sit down and brainstorm a list of the things that drove you to write the book, as well as a list of the themes and ideas that developed as you wrote it.
Once you have those lists, think about how they might crossover into articles or blog post – and which publications and bloggers might be interested in running them.
You’re not always going to get it right when it comes to publicity and promoting your book, but thinking about different ways of presenting your work is probably a good start!
Dani Vee is the podcast host of Words and Nerds, and author of picture books My EXTRAordinary Mum and the My EPIC Dad! series. She also works in publicity and acquisitions at Larrikin House, judges books for crime awards and may just have a crime novel in her somewhere one day. She is currently working on her first junior fiction novel. Find out more.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries.
My new middle-grade novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out on 1 August. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
I love writing for children. I love teaching kids about writing. But I especially love talking about writing with other authors who write in the kids/YA space.
One such author is international bestseller Amie Kaufman, who has hit the New York Times bestselling lists many times, and remains one of the most down-to-earth interviewees you could hope to meet.
This week, Amie and I staged a takeover of the Words and Nerds podcast, getting together for my occasional series about Creativity.
We talked about the importance of consistency for creativity – showing up is half the battle – and threw in a few more C words for good measure: like Conjuring up worlds, and Co-authoring.
Have a listen here – you won’t regret it!
More writing advice
And while we’re in the world of writing tips and advice, here’s a list of my posts about writing for the Australian Writers’ Centre blog that you may have missed.
Is your protagonist too comfortable?
Is it time to bring back the author blog?
Beta reading for beginners: 5 tips for providing helpful feedback
Do you need to write every day to be a real author?
Making sure your manuscript stands out in the slush pile
Three ways to tap into your creativity
Need to edit your own writing? Here’s where to start
Choosing a title for your novel
What is deep Point Of View – and how do you make it work on the page?
3 ways to create compelling characters (your reader will care about)
6 more top tips for writing commercial fiction
•June is another big month in my online Write With Allison Tait group. We’re welcoming Pamela Cook to our Industry Insider Zoom, to chat about the nuts and bolts of writing, publishing (traditional and indie), podcasting and more.
I’m also kicking off another round of #writeabookwithal, so if you’re looking for a daily dose of cheerleading and inspiration, now’s the time! to join!
•In other news, Your Kid’s Next Read now has a newsletter (sign up free here), with additional information, expert advice and resources for paid subscribers. On top of reading, Allison Rushby and I will be sharing tips for writers of all ages. Find out more here.
•And last but by no means least, my new middle-grade novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE (Scholastic Australia) is about to go to print and I’ll be updating my site with all the details next month! Can’t wait to share my ‘cosy mystery for kids’ with you!
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.
There’s more about my online writing courses here and full details about Write With Allison Tait, my online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, here.
When award-winning author Angela Slatter pops in, you know you’re in for some straight-talking about writing. And so it was during the recent Industry Insider event in my Write With Allison Tait (WWAT) community, when we discussed everything from her writing process, to her start in ‘chick lit’ and the secrets of writing short stories.
As with all good Q&A sessions, everyone walked away with a lot of food for thought – including me.
Over the years, between this blog, the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast, guest interview spots on other podcasts, guest blog posts and articles on other sites, assorted panels, events and festivals, and, now, my WWAT community, I’ve interviewed a LOT of authors.
Hundreds. Perhaps thousands even.
So when I hear something new about the process of writing, even if it’s the articulation of something I know in a new and accessible way, I take notes.
Now, I’m sharing the notes from my interview with Angela with you. Two little snippets of writing advice I think are incredibly helpful. And the fact that gates and recliners are included makes them even better.
ANGELA SLATTER ON GATES, RECLINERS AND WRITING
About Angela: Angela Slatter (also writing as A.G. Slatter) is the author of gothic fantasy novels All The Murmuring Bones and The Path of Thorns, as well as three supernatural crime novels, at least a dozen short story collections and several novellas.
She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, two Australian Shadows Awards and seven Aurealis Awards. All The Murmuring Bones was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards Book Of The Year in 2021. Angela has an MA and a PhD in creative writing, and is a highly respected teacher, editor and mentor in the writing space.
ABOUT THE GATES
In a discussion about structure, pacing and the ‘engine’ of the story:
“Your turning points and your mid-point reversal all need to be places where decisions are made that can’t be gone back on,” says Angela. “The characters must go forward. If they can easily say ‘actually, you know what Gandalf, I don’t really want to go on an adventure, Hobbiton is still just back down the road, I’m going to get on this cart and go home while you deal with the dragon”… If you can do that easily, there’s no engine in the story.
“Moving forward in the story, particularly in a short story, I often feel it’s like closing gates. Closing gates for your character that they can’t go back through.”
In short: your character needs to have a strong motivation to keep going and you have to close the gates behind them so they can’t go back.
ABOUT THE RECLINER
In a discussion about some of Angela’s most often-repeated advice for emerging writers:
“Let’s talk about setting, and specifically some advice from (author) Jack Danns, who talks about the camera,” says Angela.
“Whenever you start a scene, pretend it’s the camera in a film panning across the room or the town or the map or whatever. What are the important things your scene needs to show the reader to tell them about the setting? Put them in front of that camera.
“Is it a medieval castle? Is it a trailer somewhere in the US? What sort of furniture does it have? Is it an old La-Z-boy – or is it a new La-Z-boy? That choice will tell you things about the people in the story and their location.
“These are the things you need to give to your reader first off, so they know where they are.”
In short: big pictures are built on small details, and setting can show your reader a lot about your character.
WRITING SHORT STORIES
Where do you begin when writing a short story?
“Crisis, choice, and consequence – that’s where your story starts,” says Angela.
In short… well, it doesn’t get much shorter than that.
Of course, this is just a taste of the full and wide-ranging discussion. To watch the replay of the full one-hour Zoom with Angela, or any of our recent WWAT Industry Insider events (including bestselling author Kate Forsyth, bestselling author Natasha Lester, literary agent Annabel Barker, non-fiction publisher (and author) Sophie Hamley, children’s author and former book publicist Ashleigh Barton and many more), join Write With Allison Tait here.
Our next Industry Insider event (on Monday 15 May) will feature bestselling author and former director of Storyfest literary festival Meredith Jaffé.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here. Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.
It’s the earliest days of a brand-spanking new year and anything is possible!
If your goal is write more this year – perhaps to finish the first draft of your first novel, perhaps to add to a growing body of work, I’ve rounded up some more of my ‘elsewhere’ posts (below) to help you on your way. (You’ll find another 10 posts about writing here.)
From top tips for writing commercial fiction to the nitty gritty of raising the stakes in your story, I’ve got you covered!
I’ve also added a creative exercise to help get you started. I did this exercise myself this morning as part of the #Fresh5000 challenge in my Write With Allison Tait group and it helped to unlock a thorny problem in an idea I’m working through.
Hopefully it will work for you, too!
9 posts about writing
An insider’s guide to story structure
Beyond the writing 5 authors share their tips for a successful career
5 reasons why you should write middle-grade fiction
Twitter for authors: is it still worthwhile?
5 ways to increase the stakes in your story (and keep readers wanting more)
Anna Spargo-Ryan’s top tips for writing beautiful sentences
Is your manuscript ready for feedback?
5 top tips for writing commercial fiction
Content writing versus copywriting: what’s the difference
And a creative exercise
This is an exercise I created for my online writing group, and attempted myself this morning.
Poetry makes us look at language in a different way.
Today’s challenge is to find three poems to read. Any three. They can be from a book on your shelf. From the internet. Or search for #poetry on Instagram (it’s a surprisingly effective platform for poets).
Once you’ve read three, try writing a poem of your own. It can be a haiku, it can be a stanza, it can be a sonnet, it can rhyme, it can be free verse – the beginning of a verse novel perhaps.
If you can’t think what to write, look out your window and try to write a poem describing what you see.
This exercise is about bending your brain just a little bit.
I looked for poetic inspiration in an anthology on my shelf, in the spoken word performance of Joel McKerrow (highly recommended) and in the (also highly recommended) Instagram posts by Red Room Poetry.
It’s not hard to find these days!
If you’d like to try more creative exercises and write 5000 words by the end of January, it’s not too late to join us!
Would you love more writing tips and advice? Check out my book So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.
Buy it here!