Strunk and White’s classic, The Elements of Style. On Writing (Stephen King-style) and On Writing by the beloved southern writer Eudora Welty (same title, vastly different books). Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bonesand Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.
These are just a few of dozens of excellent books on the writing craft. I have read most of them and keep them on my writer’s bookshelf at arm’s length. And they have helped me immensely in my writing and blogging journey.
But when it comes to voice, that unique way we have of saying things that is different from any other writer or blogger, well, that can be hard to nail.
Mary Karr, author of the bestselling memoirs Liars Club, Cherry and Lit, sums up the importance of voice:
A great voice renders the dullest event remarkable.”
Strive for the way you sound at the breakfast table, but less boring.
Your writing voice is there in your everyday self: the words you use, and the way you use them. Yes, even at the breakfast table. There are many ways to capture it. Turn on your smartphone’s recording device and talk about stuff while driving. Listen to what your friends say about your comments on social media. (For example, if they consistently say, “You’re funny” and “That’s hilarious,” you should consider letting that sense of humor shine through in your writing.) Writing often, even if it is just scribbling in journals, will get you much closer to your true voice.
But what helped me the most to find my authentic voice was simply turning off the television and picking up a book. Stephen King reads between 70 and 80 books a year (and claims that he is a slow reader!).
When you read fiction, King says, there is a learning process going on. He believes that every book you pick up, good or bad (and especially the bad) has its own lesson. Most importantly, he says:
We read to experience different styles.”
5 WAYS READING FICTION HELPS YOU UP YOUR BLOGGING GAME
Reading opens up your mind, makes you think in different ways and helps you understand all kinds of people, even if they are in a fictional setting. If you read often and widely:
1. You discover more new ideas—or new slants on old ideas.
As strange as it sounds, new ideas for blog posts come to me when I am reading. I keep a notebook by my nightstand. Something will happen in a book, I’ll ask myself, “What if…? and sometimes a new post idea springs to mind.
2. You improve your vocabulary.
If you are ever pained trying to think of just the right word to use in a sentence, you’ll find the words coming to you easier the more you read.
3. You claim your voice and writing style.
Reading lots of different authors helps you nail your own voice. You’ll experience many different author styles. Some of them will ring true and others will be very different from the way you talk and write. This is good because you will come to realize that there are many ways to tell a story or write a blog post. And you eventually learn that your most honest, real self is what your readers are craving.
4. You learn how to touch emotions.
No matter what kind of blog you have, your readers want to feel something when they open up one of your posts. Because if your blog is bland, if it doesn’t connect with your readers on an emotional level, they probably won’t hang around long.
When you read a lot, you get a sense of how different writers appeal to the senses and emotions. As you write each post, ask yourself, “What do I want my reader to feel?”
5. You get better at telling your stories.
Bloggers can improve their storytelling with basic fiction techniques, even if they have no interest in writing novels. As you immerse yourself in the characters and plots in the books you read, you’ll soon begin absorbing more ways to do that.
What about you?
Do you find time to read?
Do you think reading more makes you a better blogger?