A short while ago, I was contacted by someone working with Jerry B. Jenkins about him posting at our site. !! When a prolific and successful author reaches out to YOU, it’s kind of surreal, and you jump at the chance to learn whatever he can teach.
I wasn’t disappointed. This 40-year writer of over 190 books (including the crazy-popular Left Behind series) has put together a solid blueprint for how to write a book in twenty steps. One of the points was particularly intriguing, so he agreed to let me share it with you.
Step #13: Find Your Writing Voice
Discovering your voice is nowhere near as complicated as some make it out to be.
You can find yours by answering these quick questions:
- What’s the coolest thing that ever happened to you?
- Who’s the most important person you told about it?
- What did you sound like when you did?
That’s your writing voice. It should read the way you sound at your most engaged.
That’s all there is to it.
If you write fiction and the narrator of your book isn’t you, go through the three-question exercise on the narrator’s behalf—and you’ll quickly master the voice.
“Voice” is one of those things that’s somewhat nebulous and ethereal; we all know it when we read it, but few people do it well and it’s hard to say exactly how to accomplish it. Jerry’s approach makes a ton of sense to me. He goes into more detail about it in a separate post, where he describes the time he met his future wife, then drove to the gas station where his best friend worked so he could spend half the night telling him about her. He segues that narrative into how you can apply your own memory to your voice when writing a story:
Imagine yourself sitting your best friend down and demanding their full attention, insisting, “Listen, have I got something to tell you…”
THIS. So much, people. It’s about intensity. It’s about passion. The story itself is so important that IT MUST BE TOLD. Like an electrical current traveling through a wire, when the story is that important to you, the intensity and passion will pass from you through the viewpoint character(s) to the reader. (On the importance of The Reader to your story, see Step #12: Think Reader First. But that’s a post for another time.)
Mastering voice isn’t easy. It takes a lot of research to know the characters well enough that you understand why the story is important to them personally. It takes a lot of practice to maintain that engaged tone without letting it dwindle away into blah-ness. But knowing where to start is often the hardest part. And I think this approach to finding your voice may be just the ticket.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this method. And because voice is something we all struggle with, please share any other techniques you’ve found for doing this successfully.
And while you’re pondering, you should know that Jerry’s How To Write A Book blueprint is available for free. Depending on where you are in the journey, some of it may be elementary, but you’re sure to find a few worthy nuggets to apply to your own process. Oh, and by the way, IT’S FREE. You can read it here in full or scroll to the bottom of that page to download your own copy for keeps.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.