7 Ways Writers Can Find an Exclusive Voice

It’s one of the best compliments I receive from readers. “I loved your book. I could hear you encouraging me as I read. It felt like we were talking over lunch.”

Unique. Transparent. Courageous. Authentic. Fresh. Today’s most popular writing voices are often identified by these descriptors. But how do you tap into the exclusive inflections that showcase your authentic self on the page?Grandpa and Granddaughter

Recently, while watching my nine-month-old granddaughter amuse herself by practicing her newly discovered babble, I thought about a writer’s struggle to speak on paper. In the infancy of our career, we could learn a lot from babies about speaking in an identifiable way. And if we relax and learn to amuse ourselves in the process, we’ll likely find our voice faster.

Most of us need help understanding our voice. But if you follow the seven steps listed below, I can assure you, very soon, you’ll relax into the thrill of conversational-style writing.

  1. Karen Jordan author of Words That Change EverythingWrite to your best friend, parent, sibling, spouse, or child. Someone you wouldn’t hold back with. Last month, I rode to and from the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association Conference, (AWSA), and Christian Booksellers Association, (CBA/ICRS), expo with my author friend, Karen Jordan. One of the things I love about her new book, Words That Change Everything, is her transparent way of writing. Like me, she often envisions a specific person when writing her words.
  2. Imagine your ideal reader. Then, write to them, and only them. Writing expert Jeff Goins says, “My ideal reader is smart. He has a sense of humor, a short attention span, and is pretty savvy when it comes to technology and pop culture. He’s sarcastic and fun, but doesn’t like to waste time. And he loves pizza.”
  3. Ask yourself, What do I like to read? Spend some time looking closely at the books, articles, and blogs you are drawn to. What are their similarities and differences? What is the personality of the writer?
  4. Review your recent writing, and ask yourself, Is this how I talk?
  5. Interview some of your readers. Ask them, “What does my writing voice sound like to you?” List the answers you receive, and ask yourself, Are they hearing the real me through my words?
  6. Don’t start your project/page/chapter by thinking about writing for publication; at first, simply write it for yourself. Free-write without pressure or hindrance — you can always trash it later. But for now, allow your mind to run unfettered and your fingers to type unbound. The gems that shine through your free expression may surprise you, and will lend to freshness in your voice.
  7. Ask yourself, If I knew I had thirty days to live, is the message I’m sharing coming through in its purest state? Is this what I would want to say to the world through my last breaths, and how I would want to express it?

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book CoverRemoving our writing masks takes intentional effort. When I wrote Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over, I left puddles of emotional blood on many pages. However, I knew readers needed me to do it — our creative endeavors depend on reaching into our souls to thrust our true selves onto the page. When we do, readers feel like they know us personally, and want to draw nearer. Loyal fans are engaged when they can recognize our projects, without seeing our names.

Can you hear my writing voice in this article? How have you learned to write from your authentic writing voice?

What Actors and Authors Have in Common

Writing is a Personal JourneyI was watching Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show when it struck me. Jimmy greeted the actor with a cheek-to-cheek kiss, before ushering her to the comfy studio couch so they could share a cup and a chat.

After some banter about a recent encounter they’d had at the party of a mutual friend, they discussed some morsels about their personal lives, focusing on commonalities they shared. Then they got to the real reason for the staged visit.

Fallon gushed, as he introduced the new movie title. “Gosh, it’s so, so good. I just love it. I mean when you… Oops. I almost spoiled it, but it’s just that good.”

Listen So Others SpeakThe actor giggled. “Thanks, Jimmy. I was honored to play this role, I know I’m supposed to say I love it too, but I really mean it. This is probably my favorite project so far. I only hope the people who watch it are touched as much as I was making the film.” She raised her hands in the global prayer pose symbolizing humility.

As I watched their interchange, I reflected on other shows I’d seen her on, and her other movies. It seemed every year she was cast in a new release, some blockbusters, some with a cooler audience embrace. That’s when it hit me — how similar a successful author’s experience is to that of an actor.

My third published book just released, and as I promote it, pursue the next big project, while juggling my personal life in the process, I realize the importance of strategic planning. I wish I had the resources, connections, and energy of a Hollywood public relations machine behind me, but even without, I can learn from their methods.

7 Common Factors Between Actors and Authors:

  • Getting Through What You Can't Get OverThe actors are the face of the movie, so no matter what anyone else does behind the scenes, it is the actor who must make public appearances and visit shows on the interview circuit. An actor’s passionate voice, joined with an intriguing movie trailer, is what drives audiences to theaters and streaming sites. For authors, it’s no different. We are the face of our books. Our passionate voice about our message, mingled with intrigue about our book’s content, is what drives readers to want to know more.
  • Each actor brings their own distinct personality to promotion. Some outgoing and bubbly, some serious and reflective. Both work, they will simply attract those of similar taste. Be who you are as an author, and allow natural attraction to draw people.
  • A fresh movie release shifts the actor’s focus to a new message. As authors, I think hearing the branding mantra sometimes makes us sound stale and boring — think broken record. Personally, I believe it’s not only acceptable, but interesting, if we moderately mix up our messages, while staying true to who we are.
  • Getting Through What You Can't Get Over EndorsementA good actor hunts for new scripts and contracts — sometimes preparing for years before they can make a movie they are excited about. Successful authors should do no less. Keep your ears open for hot topics, and drop ideas, research information, quotes, and more for future books into a program like Scrivener — Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over started this way.
  • Most actors would prefer to spend more time on their craft than on marketing, and many authors feel the same. However, actors and authors both know that without solid marketing, we won’t get the opportunity to do another new project.
  • No matter how many shows an actor guests on, if the movie is lousy, sales will spiral. The same is true of our books. We can’t get around it. Good content is, and always will be, the marketing king.
  • Actors cannot produce inspiring art alone. They require support people like agents, fellow actors, experts in PR, producers, directors, etc. Authors also need a group like this to expand their message reach.

The more I reflect on what it takes to release a successful movie, the more I see the connection to releasing successful books. The Hollywood model has worked for decades, which tells me that as much as things are changing, some things stay the same.

What commonalities between actors and authors do you see that I failed to mention?

 

 

 

12 Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Long-Term Writing Career

1. Do have something in the hopper to pitch at all times. While you’re querying your next book or series, keep your creative mind active by brainstorming, jotting down notes, and organizing research.

Share Your Gifts2. Don’t try to write like someone else. No one else thinks like you, has your life experiences, your collective information, your communication style, or your voice. Copying someone else’s approach means your unique offering is lost—and the world misses out.

3. Do share yourself authentically with the public. Masks don’t work. Allow the truth of who you are to resonate with readers and listeners as you speak from the page and the stage.

4. Don’t let someone else’s negative opinion of your writing stop you. No published piece is loved by everyone. Editors, agents, and readers will often view your work differently. Accept positive encouragement when it’s helpful and honest, but don’t disregard unbiased criticism—it will make you a better writer.

5. Do get out and live life on a regular basis—otherwise you’ll have nothing fresh to write about.

6. Don’t let resentment over another writer’s success distract you from your own work. Instead, celebrate their achievements with them. Not only will you feel better, but human beings are drawn to help positive people, not those who are jealous, jaded, or jerks.

7. Do focus on improving your writing—constantly. Read and re-read books on honing your craft until you develop a master’s degree worth of knowledge on writing well.

Round Hole Square Peg8. Don’t be afraid to let a word, sentence, paragraph, chapter, or even an entire project go. Sometimes, a piece doesn’t work, and you shouldn’t waste time and energy trying to force a square concept into a round career. Allow yourself to move on if you feel like you’re pulling splinters to make things fit.

9. Do take care of the people who support, encourage, and follow you. We are all in this world together, and readers are more than people we get something from, (sales), they are people who need the same things from us that they give—support, encouragement, and attention.

10. Don’t expect publication to heal all your hurts and provide lasting happiness. The real you will always hide behind the public persona. Learn to like him/her, then no matter what happens with your writing, you will be okay.

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Endorsement11. Do understand the power of influence. The greater the number of people who like your book(s) and are willing to say so publicly, the more other people will like what you write.

12. Don’t nit-pick, condescend, attack, grumble, or fight with others on social media forums. Followers don’t forget, and often their memory shapes future decisions to support you or not. Breaking the Golden Rule can become a deal-breaker for some of our readers.

Which of these twelve points are the most difficult for you? The easiest? 

 

Motivating an Unmotivated Writer

Writing Quote E.B. White I’m going through one of those seasons of life where I’m not feeling motivated. My mind could go in either one of two directions. I could wallow and give up — allowing myself to succumb to fatigue, discouragement, and fear due to circumstances beyond my control. Or I could remind myself that I am an author, and as such, absolutely everything is potential writing fodder. I’m choosing the latter.

Writing is Harder for a WriterTo maintain any productivity, my way of putting words on the page has changed over the past month. For instance, instead of scheduling hours at a time for writing, I’m snatching snippets and seconds. Scrivener is my friend, as I drop ideas, research links, and summaries of real-time happenings for anecdotal use into project files. Life has required I do things differently, but I refuse to let it stop me.

Writing the WorstI’m also offering myself an extra dose of patience and forgiveness. If I expend emotional energy on unreasonable expectations and unhealthy guilt, I will pay for it in wasted physical and mental energy. It’s taken me years to learn this about myself, but now that I know it, I can approach writing with a healthier perspective.

Writing Quote by Stephen KingAnother motivational boost comes from reminding myself that I am a professional. This means I don’t just think about writing, dream about writing, or talk about writing — I do it. A professional writer puts the same integrity, (doing the right thing whether anyone else can see or hear them or not), into their craft as the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. I refuse to be the amateur Stephen King talks about.

Writing What Others Can't SayMy past and present circumstances are more than writing fodder, they are also qualifiers. My unique experiences qualify me to speak about subjects, while my role as a professional writer enables me to say what others cannot due to willingness or ability. This is why writing is both privilege and responsibility. This thought alone motivates me to action when I feel unmotivated.

In speaking with many of my author friends, I find I’m not the only one who needs the occasional reminder to move my fingers across the keyboard when I feel like pushing buttons on the remote. The truth is, writing is hard under ideal conditions, but it can feel excruciating when life batters you with tough situations. This is where my writing mettle is tested.

  • Am I serious?
  • Will I resolve to follow through no matter what?
  • Can I motivate myself when I’d most like to bury myself in bed and pull the covers over my head?

Writer at WorkThe answer is yes. After all, I am a professional. And professional authors get to work — one intentional word at a time.

Does your writing come easy, or do you require a motivational push to do the daily word grind?

 

15 Motivational Quotes for Authors

What Does Writing Teach Us?

What is it about motivational quotes that inspire us to greater endeavors? Daring us, energizing us, prodding us to overcome our fears and anxiety, so we can do what we truly desire?

Maybe it’s the quick, easy-to-remember word bites, or perhaps simply the comfort of knowing we are not the first trodding this territory. Regardless, the human spirit responds to simple quotes with powerful impact.

As writers, quotes from successful authors can move us past blocks, help us overcome anxiety, and keep us from giving up in the face of rejection. Maybe you could use a quick boost of daring, energy, or prodding today.

If so, here are fifteen of my favorite motivators:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” — Joan Didion

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.” — Lord Byron

“It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over.” — Stephen King

“Writing is the supreme solace.” — William Somerset Maugham

“If you’re a singer you lose your voice. A baseball player loses his arm. A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.” — Mickey Spillane

“A wounded deer leaps the highest.” — Emily Dickinson

“Writers write about what obsesses them. You draw those cards. I lost my mother when I was 14. My daughter died at the age of 6. I lost my faith as a Catholic. When I’m writing, the darkness is always there. I go where the pain is.” — Anne Rice

“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.” — Ray Bradbury

“Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” — Henry David Thoreau

“My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.” — Anton Chekhov

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.” — William Faulkner

“I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.” — Gustave Flaubert

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.” — Sidney Sheldon

Which of these inspires you most?

Should I Write Fiction or Non-Fiction?

When I was an aspiring writer, I had no idea whether I should pursue novels, (fictional stories using made-up characters, scenarios, and plots), or nonfiction, (themed projects using real-life examples). So before I signed with WordServe, I wrote a proposal for both.

Juggling a Writing Career and a Day JobWhen my literary agent steered me in the direction of nonfiction, I felt two distinctly different emotions. One part relief, because it’s easier for me encourage, inspire, teach, and motivate through true stories and practical application. But I also felt a twinge of disappointment. After all, it’s a little more fun to make stuff up. Besides, you can get away with things under the guise of imagination, where non-fiction holds you to a strict standard of authenticity.

Mark Twain once said, “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” He also said, “Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

Today, I’m much more comfortable in my true writer’s skin. Occasionally, I still feel the old pull to write novels, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll do it for fun, but for now, I recognize that I am on the right path. I was made to inspire through nonfiction. But it doesn’t mean I have to give up story-telling…as a matter of fact, for me, stories enhance the topics I am drawn to write about.

Maybe you understand my dilemma. If so, perhaps these bullet points will provide clarity. After all, facts help us make informed decisions.

Fiction

  • Defined by Merriam-Webster as written stories about people and events that are not real. Literature that tells stories which are imagined by the writer; something that is not true.
  • Many readers are drawn to the escape of make-believe story, becoming passionate followers of characters.
  • You can hide truth in a fictional account.
  • There is an increased opportunity to sell two to three book deals as a fictional series.
  • There are fewer speaking platforms to engage with readers, and introduce them to your work.
  • There are fewer fiction publishers available to buy your books.
  • You must write the entire book before submitting it to publishers.

Nonfiction

  • Merriam-Webster describes nonfiction as writing that is about facts or real events. All writing that is not fiction.
  • Statistics show the greater majority of dedicated book buyers gravitate to nonfiction.
  • You can use fictional techniques to tell true stories.
  • On average, studies show nonfiction authors are paid more for their books.
  • With effort, you can find a place where groups gather for practically any true subject–and where they meet, a speaker is needed. Most publishers will require speaking platforms from nonfiction authors.
  • Tapping into felt needs sounds easy on the surface, but unearthing fresh subjects a publisher will buy, and a title that draws readers, is almost as tough as writing the book.
  • Though you need only write two to three chapters of your book, a thorough proposal including a solid marketing plan, comparative analysis of similar books, and complete outline with chapter blurbs is required.

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book CoverFor me, nonfiction is my natural fit, and reviewing these bullet points confirms my choice. I have a speaking platform. I prefer truth-telling over make-believe. I love to research facts, statistics, and the latest studies. I actually enjoy the challenge of coming up with a fresh approach to an existing issue, while pounding out a unique title.

There are readers for every genre, or those genres would fade away. Thankfully, there are writers to supply the demands. As an author, I must look at where I can do the greatest good, after all, the books I write ultimately belong to readers. I can’t pen it all, so wisdom says, write what I can pen best. In my case, this means nonfiction.

Are you writing fiction or nonfiction? Why is that your choice?

 

 

 

 

Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I Started Writing

I still remember sitting in that very first session at my first writer’s conference. Nervous. Insecure. Excited. Then the instructor shared that dreaded statistic. It wasn’t good news.

“About one percent of writers succeed in getting published. Because most give up and drop out of the race.”

I felt liking running out of the room into the brisk autumn air. But instead of following my instincts, I stayed — and made a vow to become one of the one percent. I tell that story here.

Extra ExtraSeven years later, I can report good news. I have two published books, First Hired, Last Fired: How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market by Leafwood Publishing, and Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over by Barbour Publishing. A third, (one I was hired to write for someone else), will release in the spring of 2016, a new proposal is on the market, and I’ve contributed in two others. No one is more surprised than me.

Sometimes I still shake my head and give myself a pinch. Am I really a professional author and speaker now? Those dreams I journaled, those goals I put in black and white — are they truly my reality? Why, yes, they are.

It’s hard to believe only a few short years ago I seriously began to pursue my most secret desire. When I started this journey, I didn’t believe in my abilities. If I had, I wouldn’t have waited so long to get serious.

  1. What you have to contribute is just as valuable as what anyone else has to offer. Trust God’s call to write more than you trust your fears and comparisons. Dare to believe.
  2. Do something in regard to writing every day, (except your Sabbath). Research, blog, write articles, outline new proposals, brainstorm titles, interview someone, whatever it is, make sure that six days a week you are making forward motion in your writing career. But don’t discount any of it. Sometimes you will feel as if you didn’t accomplish anything because you didn’t type words into your computer, but if you conducted a new interview, or outlined a proposal, you were productive in your writing. So quit beating yourself up!
  3. Analyze all of the things you learned in past career fields, much of it will transfer to your writing career. I’m amazed at how my background in banking, accounting, marketing, and even manufacturing have given me insights and understanding about the business of professional writing. Nothing is wasted — including the time you spent doing those things. Don’t begrudge your past, express gratitude for its benefits.

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book CoverEach day that passes I become more comfortable in my own writing skin. I realize what I am compelled to put on a page can really help others. For instance, we’re now in the most depressing three months of the year, November through January. Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over will make an ideal gift for those who don’t know what to get someone suffering from anxiety, grief, PTSD, or depression. I can now make that statement with confidence, whereas three years ago, I wouldn’t have dared.

I guess what it all drills down to is something we hear many times as authors. It takes perseverance, tenacity, and determination to make it. If I could go back to the beginning of my career, I would encourage my newbie self to keep on keeping on every day. And there’s one particular thing I would add. I’d lean in close, cup my hand over her ear, and then I would whisper, “Never give up, buttercup. In the end, you’re going to make it. You become one of the one.”