Finding my voice through blogging

Literary agent Nathan Bransford had a great post recently on finding your literary voice.

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I dig into another revision of my travel memoir. One of the elements I’m focusing on is my voice. Rachelle says my voice is still too journalistic, not memoir-y enough. I know she’s right. This is something I’ve struggled with from the beginning, since my writing experience is mostly in news.

No matter what I do, my style will probably always be slightly journalistic, since I’m a journalist. That’s okay. Some of my favorite memoirs have journalistic voices, including Helene Cooper’s The House at Sugar Beach. (My sister tells me Roxana Saberi’s Between Two Worlds does too, though it’s still in my to-read pile, or as an agent at the conference this weekend called it, Guilt Mountain.) But even with that journalistic undertone, I need to let the reader in. I need to help the reader get to know me, to hear my personality in my words.

So whenever I find myself writing stiffly, I remind myself to create like I do on this blog. To write casually. To string words together like I would in a conversation, not like I would for a news story. On this blog, I’ve developed a conversational tone, one that really sounds like me. (Agree? Feel free to shoot me down!) Little bits of my humor come through here. A taste of my personality. Yes, in some ways I still write like a journalist, but on this blog I feel like I’ve found my unique voice.

That’s what needs to come across in my manuscript. Perhaps, during this revision, I should pretend I’m blogging.

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14 Responses

  1. I enjoyed Nathan’s post too. Memoirs are fascinating to me. So cool you’ve found this blog as a guide to reveal your more conversational voice.
    ~ Wendy

  2. Hi Alexis, I agree with you, My blog is helping me to become a better writer and to experiment with my voice. I have also found imagining that I am telling a specific friend an epic story is the best way to find my narrative voice. If I picture him getting bored I know I need to change something.

  3. I am new to blogging in the past few months. I’m finding that I do love the conversational aspect of blogging–more than I thought I would, actually 🙂

  4. First of all, Rachelle is brilliant. Every single suggestion she’s ever given me for improving my manuscript is GOLD.

    I’m helping a friend with a book right now, and she’s struggling with the same thing you are. Bringing more of her blog voice into her book. When she gets the hang of it, she’ll have the funniest memoir ever.

    Keep at it! I’m excited to read your book!

  5. I very much agree with your assessment about blogging. I believe that since I’ve been writing my blog for a little less than a year, I’ve found my Southern voice that makes sense.

    I plan on returning to school in 2010 and it will be interesting to see how my blog voice transitions to my academic voice.

  6. Yes — pretend you are blogging. Or writing an email to a friend. As I work, I find that if I think I’m emailing a friend, the writing is honest and fun and natural.

    • This is another great tip — pretend you’re writing a letter to a friend.

      • You don’t even have to pretend. Some segments in my draft are pulled directly from my old emails, and then cleaned up a bit.

  7. Voice is one of the hardest aspects of writing to refine. The more you write, the more your voice will form and gel. I think your plan of blogging to help bring out your more personal voice is a good plan.

    Happy Writing!
    ~Kerrie

  8. I agree, Alexis, finding one’s voice is tricky, especially if you’ve been a journalist. I was in public relations, similar to journalism, in writing style, so this was hard for me as well. What my professors in the Creative Writing department said, over and over, was that it is when you bring the reflective voice into the memoir that the voice comes thru. So, while you are telling us your story, conversationally as you said, you can sprinkle in your thoughts about what you’re telling us.
    Good luck!
    Karen

  9. I like this thought about finding a more natural voice – because blogging is a conversation, and we get to “hear” the real you here online.

    Good luck with this latest revision!

  10. Just came across your traveling blog. I have to say that you are a brave girl. Traveling solo myself I know what it’s like, but I am a man and I’d guess it is twice harder for you being a girl and a beautiful one.
    How was your trip in Madagascar? Did you get a lot of vazaspotting? I guess you should since you probably were traveling on taxi-brouses and such.
    I wish we met somewhere on the road.

  11. im an aspiring writer and still trying to find my voice. ive enjoyed this post and look forward to reading more stuff.

  12. Interesting post, Alexis. I think blogging is a great way to get loose and let yourselfout on the page.

    I actually have the opposite problem. I don’t think I have a problem with voice because I have never written professionally and don’t know how to sound like anyone other than me. 🙂 On the flipside, I struggle with understanding the narrative elements – what makes a good story, how to structure it and lead the reader through, etc. I bet your training is invaluable in that sense!

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