The writer’s voice in fiction is often expressed through the main character or narrator. In more complex novels, the perspective may change from character to character or to a narrator but there is one main entity that is the voice of the author. (The rest are just the voices in our heads…) The overall tone is controlled by the author.
In nonfiction, whether it’s an “authority” book, course manual, or straight how-to, the writer’s voice is that of the expert. In some cases, science textbooks for instance, the expert is (and should be) neutral: “This is an established fact. This is a hypothesis that is being tested. This has been proven wrong.”
However, if you are writing a book to establish your authority or to share your thinking, neutrality is not your friend. This is your time to shine.
As a marketing tool, a book has many purposes. One is for your reader to get to know you. As Bob Burg says, “All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to people they know, like, and trust.” For most of my clients, the goal for their book is to help prospective clients know, like, and trust them.
And then we all freak out.
It’s high school all over again.
What if people don’t like me? What if I sound dumb or my information is too basic? What if, what if, what if?
And here’s where I am going to sound like my mother.
Not everyone will like you. And that’s okay.
Think about it. You probably don’t want everyone to like you. You have a certain target audience you are after. You want those people to like you. From what I’ve seen in my [REDACTED] decades on this planet, you only find “your people” if you’re upfront with them. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, you aren’t going to attract the type of people you want to work with. So have some faith in your audience.
The next step is harder: getting the self-consciousness out of your writing.
There are many ways to go about this. The first is to write a lot. Under some sort of deadline pressure. It won’t be the best writing at first but as you go along, you’ll naturally fall into your writing rhythm, developing a style, and finally finding your voice.
A subcategory to writing a lot would be to write blog posts. Set a schedule, say a blog post a week and keep to it. The first ten posts will be hard to do. It may be laborious. It may take hours to write one 750 word post. And then it gets easier. You get faster. You might figure out a template of sorts, an outline that helps you create the structure of what you’re going to say. You get comfortable with the process and you gain confidence in your ability.
Another way to develop your writer’s voice and your writing skills is to write three pages a day, first thing in the morning. I got this from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. You can write about anything that crosses your mind—it doesn’t even have to make sense. Just fill up three pages every morning. This gets you in the habit of writing and because you can write anything, you take off those self-censors that say you “aren’t doing it right.” There is no right. Just write. (See what I did there?) I ended up with thousands of pages of absolute drivel before I decided to use those three pages more productively. (Duh.)
A third way to develop your voice is to record yourself (or you and a friend to capture a real conversation) discussing a subject, then have the recording transcribed. You will have to edit but if you’ve organized the main points you want to cover beforehand, the words should flow naturally and editing should be minimal for short pieces.
Unless you’re writing for academic tomes or scientific journals, most good writing is very conversational. It’s very “me to you” as we say in the writing world. The truth is, you already have a voice. Your persona and your personal brand are an extension of you. (And gosh darn it, people like you!) For the most part, humans enjoy doing things they do well and avoid doing things they suck at. You’re good at being you. Your writing is just an extension of that.