5 Innovative Ways to Develop Your Author Voice
The art of developing a narrative voice (or voices) is a skill learned through the process of reading and writing. Your narrative voice determines how you tell stories, how you keep the attention of your readers, and how you maintain consistency throughout what might be an incredibly winding tale. But what about the voice you use outside of your novels?
Your author voice--the voice you portray to the public at large--influences how people perceive you as a writer and has the power to attract new readers while engaging old readers even if you’re not on the verge of releasing a new book. It is the consistent manner in which you present yourself as a writer--the tone, mood, and pet phrases that people can recognize from a distance and that works seamlessly with your author brand.
This isn’t simply your natural voice--though that’s a good place to start. You need to cultivate your author voice to sound appealing to the same people who would love your books. It’s like a brand voice, and you’ll use it like a brand voice--whether you’re writing text for your author website, engaging with fans on social media, responding to interviews, or any other non-fiction writing you engage in as an author.
If you’re in the process of developing your own author voice, or if you just realized it’s missing from your brand as a writer, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Create an author persona.
This is basically like creating a character sheet, and especially helpful if you write under multiple names or in multiple genres. Choose what personality you want to have, what facts about your life influence your writing, and possibly a couple of pet phrases you’ll want to adopt. For example, one of my pen names always signs of with “Ciao!” at the end of her newsletters because I decided to portray her more as a character than as myself. I decided to make her bubbly and energetic, and I work to reflect that in all of her interactions.
A persona can also help if you feel low on content, such as what you want to write in your next email or what tweets and posts you should engage with. While you don’t have to go all out and get an account on every platform to help a pseudonym (and I have heard of writers getting blocked from Facebook for having a separate account for pen names), separate social media accounts can give a helpful boost when you want to make your author life more vibrant or shed attention on a different area of your writing.
2. Pick 3-5 words to describe you.
Quality. Bubbly. Energized. Educated. Sarcastic.
Any of those could describe you, and we could add any number of other words to the list. When you settle on an author voice, anchor yourself by picking a handful of words that you want to describe you. Don’t choose too many. Pick about three words that stand out as being the person you want to present yourself as, and keep them in mind while you write. Ask yourself if your writing reflects those traits and what you can do to keep it more in line.
If you write romances and you want to appear “sentimental,” consider what that might include in your next newsletter. Changing of seasons? Old family traditions? If you write YA dystopian novels and choose “inspirational” as one word, that could give you some new social media posts you can share.
3. Study similar authors.
How many author mailing lists are you subscribed to? How many book blogs do you read? How often do you observe other authors at work? You don’t need to dedicate a lot of time to cultivating a winning indie author subscription to study and learn, but a few subscriptions can teach you a lot. If you can find authors in your niche who write regular newsletters or who post often on social media, they can demonstrate what an active author voice looks like and give you a style to fall back on.
The easiest way to find these authors is by browsing on social media. Find websites or book giveaways and sign onto their lists. You can easily claim some free books just for signing up, and the subscription can in the end benefit both of you.
4. Make a list of inspirations.
Maybe someone else resonates with you more than other writers. Maybe you look up to a family member, a historical figure, a celebrity or someone in a different line of work entirely. Maybe your biggest heroes are characters in your favorite book and don’t even exist in this world. These individuals can solidly help your author voice by virtue of personality.
Make a list of the people who inspire you. You can save or print out pictures of them to keep on a nearby sheet, or simply refer to them when you want a quick boost. Being intentional about your influences will more sharply define how you influence others in return.
5. Describe your readers.
Take a moment to think about your readers. What do they enjoy, and what facts do they want to know about you and your writing process? If you use character sheets to organize your thoughts on your favorite characters, you can use the same sheets to create some imaginary readers. Better yet, if you’ve met readers outside of friends and family (say, at a signing), you can imagine yourself talking to those people directly instead of writing into the void. This will give your writing a more conventional and conversational tone perfect for a fireside chat about what’s going on in your writing life.
If you have any tips on developing a strong author voice, I’d love to hear them! Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or join my group of Self-Publishing Fiction Authors on Facebook.