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Find your voice in the midst of the melee

Voice is important to a story because it's something that sets the writer apart from the pack. Once a writer has developed a voice, it's common for readers to recognize it immediately, once they start reading. Good story telling is essential, of course, but a unique, strong voice keeps them coming back. Cori Smelker is a highly successful freelance writer from San Antonio. At a recent conference, Cori taught a workshops on finding your voice. If you're struggling with developing your individual style, try some of these suggestions and see if your voice starts getting clearer.

1. Play Games. Choose one topic at a time from the following list and write for 5 minutes straight about that topic. No matter what, don't lift your pen off that page (or let those fingers rest on the keyboard).

* Childhood memories

* Dreams and nightmares

* If I had a million dollars, I would...

* Things that are creepy

* Things that are sexy

* Best foods

* What I want most in the world.

The idea is that by randomly writing with wild abandon, aspects of your voice will magically emerge.

2. Challenge your preconceptions. Get inside another person's head and understand their viewpoint. For example, if you're a conservative, pretend you're a liberal and write an entire page defending one of their political positions. Or if you're an animal rights activist, write an entire page about going shopping for a fur coat.

3. Write from Passion. What are you passionate about? How would you argue that Jesus is the son of God? What words would you use to describe an event or cause you believe in? What makes your blood boil or your heart soar? Find those things and turn them into wonderful pieces of writing.

4. Take Risks. Think writing about something would be too embarrasing, too risky, or too challenging? Then that's exactly what you should write about. Think outside the box. Try a new genre or style. Can't stand science fiction? Try writing it! You may just find a voice you never knew you had.

5. Get a little help from your friends. Once you have several stories or articles written, ask friends and fellow writers if they can identify a specific voice. Ask them what's unique about it. What makes it exciting or dull? See what words they would use to describe your voice.

6. Write like you talk. Here is where many writers miss it. Have you ever read dialogue that sounds stilted and awkward? Maybe you've found yourself saying, "people don't say that today" or "she's talking like she's from the fifties, when the story is set in the year 2009." Pay attention to how you talk and try to write as similarly as you can. Unless, of course, your book is set in a different era. But even then, keep it as "real" as possible.

7. Remember, writing is about rewriting. Even writers who have a distinct voice spend plenty of time rewriting. The key is not to rewrite your voice right out of the story. Sometimes, due to critique partner suggestions or over-analyzing, we lose our voice somewhere in the editing process. Try to stay as true to your personal voice and style while at the same time creating an excellent story.


Cori Smelker was born in England, educated in South Africa, and now makes her home in San Antonio. She may be vague about nationality, but when it comes to writing she's specific and passionate. She loves
nothing more than getting people to talk about themselves and their area of expertise in order to share their knowledge with others.

Her previous jobs include teacher (short-lived as she realized she'd actually have to teach!), corporate trainer,and curriculum and technical writer. She writes for many local and regional publications.

Cori is a regular speaker at the FaithWriters’ Conference. She is also the winner and champion of the 2008 FaithWriters’ Page Turner Contest, one of the most prestigious awards given at FaithWriters for manuscripts with the greatest reader appeal and potential for publication.

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