“The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t write.”
—Unknown

10 Questions to Find Your Unique Writing Voice

Why is it that when you love someone’s writing, you want to read every book they’ve ever written? Why is it that some readers will buy all of J.K. Rowling’s books, even if she’s writing in a completely different genre than the Harry Potter series? And for us writers, how can we go from “unknown writer” to “published author”?

It’s all about your writing voice.

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writing voice

Photo by BdwayDiva1 (creative commons). Adapted by The Write Practice.

What Is a Writing Voice?

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you must find your writing voice. But what does that mean?

Your writing voice is not your particular writing style, although style is part of voice. It’s also not the tone of your writing, although tone is part of voice as well.

Your writing voice is your unique way of looking at the world.

And the unique part is essential.

A writer who sees the world the same as everyone else has either lost their voice or never found it in the first place.

Readers lined up for the next Harry Potter book because J.K. Rowling has a unique way of looking at the world. She revealed a hidden world, filled with extraordinary people, secret wars, and magical creatures.

Readers are so impatient for George R.R. Martin’s next book because he has a unique way of looking at the world. In his world, heroes are killed, the bad guys win (at least for a while), and what’s right isn’t always what’s smart.

J.D. Salinger has a unique way of looking at the world, as does J.R.R. Tolkien, Cormac McCarthy, Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, Ernest Hemingway, and so many other writers people love.

If you want to be a great writer, you need to find a unique voice.

How to Find Your Writing Voice?

It starts by developing your sight. Here’s an exercise to help you see the world in a unique way:

What Do You Value Most?

Morality is essential to every story, regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. Even business books have a moral viewpoint (e.g. making money = good, waste = bad).

What is your moral worldview:

  • What is most important in life? Family, love, courage, sacrifice?
  • Do the good guys always win? If you only enjoy books where the hero wins at the end, then this is an important part of how you see the world.
  • What’s not okay to you (e.g. poverty, selfishness, rape, orphans, infidelity, loneliness, betrayal)? Write about that!

People Watch

Next time you’re in a public place, look at the people around you. Really see them.

  • What are they hiding? What are their secretsEveryone has something that they think if people found out, they would be rejected and excluded.
  • Is he a good guy? Is he a bad guy? And remember, even the villains think they’re the good guy.
  • What does she want? What’s stopping her from getting it? A good story requires desire and conflict.
  • Who does she rely on? Most protagonists have a sidekick. (Most antagonists have a sidekick too!)
  • What is their ideal place? What would be the most terrifying/uncomfortable/lonely/boring place for them?

Observe Your Surroundings

Setting is an important character in every story, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. Take a deep breath and look around you:

  • What are your eyes drawn to? If you squint, what do you automatically look at? Describe that!
  • How does what you’re seeing make you feel?

The Secret Ingredient to Becoming a Great Writer

What’s the secret ingredient to becoming a great writer?

The secret is that there is no secret ingredient. J.K Rowling can’t help you. Neither can George R.R. Martin or Ernest Hemingway or any other great writer.

It’s just you.

YOU already have a unique way of looking at the world. YOU already have a unique writing voice.

You’re not one in a million. You’re one in six billion.

To unearth your writing voice, all you have to do is write word after painful word. Today is a great day to start!

Have you found your unique writing voice? Share in the comments.

PRACTICE

Ask the questions above. Then, after you’ve spent some time thinking about each one, free write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, get feedback on what you’ve written by posting it in the comments section. And if you post, please be sure to give feedback to your fellow writers.

Download the step-by-step guide and learn how to become a writer today.

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • You’re so right, Joe. It’s writing day after day, for YEARS, when you really feel comfortable in your skin to BE who you really are. That’s true for both fiction and nonfiction. Wonderful insights, thanks.

  • That list of questions is incredibly helpful, Joe. Thank you for this post!

    • Awesome. I’m so glad it helped, Joy! Thanks!

  • Audrey McGee

    Time is coming about like seashells running through space, and regardless of tabletops and napkin holders there’s very little in this world that’s going to stop it. Hell, there’s not much that can stop anything, let alone you. You are a monster truck, but that’s besides the point. Today’s story is brought to you by the letter J.

    Once upon a time, and it was not that long ago otherwise this story would be stale and unneeded, there was a man, the God heroine prays to. He had a needle stabbed into his arm, flopping around almost like an accessory, with small lines of blood slowly running into the bandage he’d placed just below it. He was wearing a three piece suit, the sleeves rolled up past his elbows, with a black watch on each of his hairy arms. He was almost bear like really; thick eyebrows that almost met but never quite had the chance to become lovers, scraggly beard that coated every inch of his face like frosting on a cake, and wild hair that, though an attempt had been made to contain it, was haphazardly strewn about the top of his head. He held a leather briefcase in his hand, and was walking just before the boundary necessary to call it a sprint. He kept glancing up and down at his watch, very much in a hurry.
    The countryside he walked in was idyllic; the sunset colors bounced gently off the slopes of the hills nearby, the sky seemingly ablaze with flamingo colors. A small town in the distance was steadily growing, revitalized by the puberty of the man’s perspective, and the crunch under his feet was growing steadily softer. He licked his lips; he was ready to make his move. He burst into a sprint, dropping the briefcase, and ripped off his outer jacket, spreading his arms out wide as he howled at the top of his lungs. He spun around in place, screaming and wooping, wiggling his fingers as if possessed and then he took to kissing the grown, feeling the gravel against his now moistened lips and loving it. He rolled around on the ground, arms and legs tucked in slightly, and he felt as if he was a husky, suddenly freeing itself to the morning snow. He took out his phone and immediately went on Twitter, going on and on about the sudden joy he felt, how every problem in his life seemed to melt away, dripping off the tabletop that was previously mentioned into a jar to immediately be used to pollute the ocean. But that didn’t matter; all was okay.
    He crawled towards the briefcase, panting rapidly, and flung it open, looking at the various folded up pairs of boxers inside of it. He dug through them like a spoiled child on Christmas, looking for the prize, the golden ticket to his escapade. At last, he found it, tucked under porno magazines and a suspiciously sticky tie; a gallon Ziploc bag, filled to the very top with cocaine. He screamed and wooped, grabbing it out of the bag and running even faster to the town, holding it in one hand tightly against his chest. When he finally got into town, he made a bolt for the fountain at the center of it, an imitation Michelangelo statue spitting half clean water into a basin where people tossed their hard earned pocket change in, hoping to exchange it for dreams, as if such things can be that easily bought. The man grabbed the bag with both hands, stopping short of falling in, then turned around and back flopped into the fountain. His back hit the outer rim, shattering his spine, and he collapsed into the shallow water, now partially paralyzed. This didn’t dissuade his joy; he just kept laughing and laughing, the bag’s contents slowly seeping into the water and slowly converting it into a pinkish sludge and producing a foul smell of vinegar. The townspeople say that, to this very day, the man still rolls over to the fountain and lays in it, breathing in the heavy fumes of nostalgia and begging God to let him relive something that perfect one more time.

    Moral of the story: Heroin + LSD=fucking amazing stuff

    • Wow. This is so fun, Audrey! It’s so vivid, and I liked the way you played with all of these crazy images.

  • Thank you, Joe! Someone in my writing group that I respect a lot has been telling me he hears my voice in my nonfiction but not in the novel I am getting ready to publish. But my novel absolutely addresses what I value most! I think he’s is confusing my characters’ voices with my voice and is unable to find ME in them, but I am there which I think is the beauty of great fiction. You are there but readers don’t recognize you!
    Thanks for affirming what I already believed to be the truth.

  • Miriam N

    I have a question for you Joe, aroused by this topic. You have all i’m sure read several of my practices where I go into dept on how i feel about a certain thing. with those practices i can hear my voice in it, and my words flow. when I write fantasy or work on my WIP that same feeling goes away. I’m not sure if i’m doing something wrong or if my writing voice simply comes in different ways when i write fiction. I’ve been thinking about whether or not fiction is my genre. I write a whole lot better when describing previous experiences of real life stories. How can I tell what genre i’m the best at writing?

  • sam badsha

    John, a poor guy is in love with a girl named Shea. Shea, is very rich, and her father is in real estate business; she also love to travel around different places. Whenever, Shea leaves her home for a big tour then John never miss to follow her till her return. John, says that he can do everything for her, even if needed he can be slave for her. John is such a great lover that he has already did a lot of things for Shea, and not let her know about them. Shea loves to spend sometime with orphans, and she also donate them cash from her pocket, which is just amazing to see. Shea believes that no-one is poor or rich, but everyone are humans and they are alike. Her, heart is really too kind that she behave so good and friendly with her poor servants. Shea’s mother is no-more with her, but Shea always misses her mother. Mr.Justin the father of Shea also know that her daughter still feels so sad when she remember her mother. Mr.Justin is also a nice person, he gives charity to poor, and still feel very good about spending more on poor people. John, always thinks that how can he love such a rich girl like Shea, and sometimes when he compare himself to her, he feels that he is nothing near her, even he know that her servants are more rich than him. However, it is said that love is blind and it has no limits John still loves Shea even knowing all those problems. One day John is following Shea and suddenly she saw him following her; she stopped and called John “I saw you, now don’t hide yourself from me.” John was shocked and he stopped.

  • sam badsha

    Thanks, for such a great article I’ve tried to write something from my side using 15 minute timer, it wil be nice if you give me some advice about what I’ve written. Thanks!

  • Lauren Timmins

    I have a question that kind of goes along with this: Do writers go through phases like painters?

    Practice:

    When I think of beaches, I usually think of white sand and neon blue water caressing a shoreline strewn with seashells. However, the beach I came to love had none of these things. Its shores were dotted with clam shells and pebbles, the sand brown and sticky under bare skin. The water was a deep blue gray, the color of storm clouds before the first roar of thunder breaks. This beach was my escape, my paradise away from the harsh realities of life. It was on this beach that I was born, and it was on this beach that I would die.
    His name was William. His jaw was shrouded in stubble, his eyes sharp and cold. One could see more ink on his arms than skin. He didn’t intimidate me like he did others. I found him mysterious, a puzzle to pull apart and put together again.
    “Ruby, you can’t fawn over a man like him. Most sea faring men like him are criminals.”

    • This is wonderful. Pulls me in and makes me want to go along with her. 🙂

    • Sarah Coulter

      This is incredible! I want to read the rest of it.

  • Joe- your piece really helped me get a stronger grasp on my world view. Also, your remarks at Jeff Goins’ recent workshop were quite helpful. Thank you!

  • mrchrisf

    Thanks for sharing; appreciate it.

  • Hope

    I love this article! It’s really true and very encouraging. I’ll have to keep all this in mind when I write. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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  • Thanks for the reminder, Joe. Sometimes it gets discouraging when editors aren’t open to the same kind of material they’ve always accepted. I’ve learned from the responses I’ve received from those who took the time, that it often wasn’t the story, it was the voice. An example is having an ending where the protagonist doesn’t win. It’s a hard sell.

    As time goes on, and I “mature” along with it, my voice and viewpoint on life has changed. As a result, the markets available to me are different. The important thing, as you have alluded to, is to remain true to one’s own voice. Enjoy the worlds you create and fall in love with the characters that inhabit them.

    I agree. “Today is a great day to start!”

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  • Ching Ern Yeh

    These are really good questions, not just for us writers to ask, but also for our characters to ask themselves as well about the world around them, and the people that inhabit it. Thank you Joe!

  • Thank you for sharing excellent information. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this blog. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will come back for more articles. You ROCK! I found just the info I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What a perfect site.

  • brock

    thanks take it

  • brock

    I haven’t observed my writing voice before coming to your site,
    but this is a good information with us and next
    time I observe myself when I write try to listen so that I enjoy and tell another one. See this buy online assignment

  • Lola Chan

    She looked around her at the people in the orphanage. They all seemed like helpful people, and cheery, and happy, but but she is only new here, and once people know about her, she will never feel the same. She will never ever.
    The nice lady with spectacles led her to her room and told her that she will be sharing with some othrr girls, but all of them were laughing and playing downstairs. Then she asked her if she knew any other girls from the old orphanage. Lea shook her head, which made the nice lady with spectacles confused. After inspecting Lea’s face for a while, she realized the girl was sniffing and seem to hopd back tears.
    “You miss mama and papa?” the lady asked her.
    “I never met them,” Lea answered.
    “May I ask what’s wrong?”
    “She’s too sweet, ” Lea thought, but she didn’t reply and shook her head.
    What the lady with spectacles did then was pat Lea in the head and say, “You’ll have wonderful friends here, and of you don’t, I can always be your friend, and if you don’t want to see me, remember that being sad won’t make you happy.”
    The lady then excused herself and left Lea in the room. Lea then broke down and cried so much. She needed time in her old place to get used to how the children treated her, now she had to start doing it again, which was a very painful process. She wasn’t like any of the others and she knew it well. Once the other girls know about her past, they will surely treat her differently.
    She remembered the things all the other girls kept saying at the old orphanage.
    “Her parents must be very bad people. Why else would the police take a child once born?”
    “She’ll never understand a lot of the others here. She never had a family, whilst a lot of us saw them slaughtered in front of our own eyes.”
    “Do you think her parents were legal? Why else would they seperate the family? ”
    There was much more and more she hated.
    Lea then tried drying her tears. What will happen if someone opened the door and saw her lying there?
    But ot was too late, because she heard the door squeak.
    Written quickly on a small mobile screen so typos might be found.

    • Jordan

      Not enough description. Inaccurate child p.o.v
      If she’s a nice lady in our pov characters perspective, then we can assume Lea is naive, but then she says the woman is ‘too nice’. This starts the reader off with a dissonant view of your character.
      The flashback is a nice idea, however you could add grounding detail to enhance it and bring the reader to the memory itself.

      • Aala Elsadig

        I wrote this a couple of month’s ago, and reading it again gave me an objective view. I do agree with your opinion, you know. I actually feel kind of disgusted at it XD.
        Guess I’ll just need t work harder, right mate?

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  • Jennifer Groff

    Thanks for contributing your important time to post such an interesting & useful collection of knowledgeable resources, that are always of great need to everyone. Please keep continue sharing.

    Writer @ college essay writing service

  • Voice: Erma Bombeck certainly had it in spades. She could write about putting a roll of toilet paper on the spindle and make it sparkle with humor and wit. Her shopping list was probably entertaining.

    • What I got from this is… a witty smart-aleck. I read this three times and each time was the same. I felt like the individual was smirking as she remembered a past event.

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  • I have been following this site for a while and this was the first article post that I have read here. I have created an interactive guide to find writing voice based on this. I hope it helps other aspiring writers. http://copyeffect.com/interactive-guide-find-your-writing-voice/

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  • Stuart Webner

    I don’t expect you to follow me or my paradigm, winnow, but I do expect you to honor your commitment. May your word be weighed against your actions in this bargain.

    You know as well as I do that if the council becomes aware of our doings that my entire empire will be ruined.

    The greyfolds would be on my doorstep and all that I have strived and sacrificed to build would be slowly dismantled piece by piece.

    Don’t be concerned about my commitment to ensuring the success of our plan.

    Winnow glared at Gizmon from behind her bangs as if to weigh his words.

    With all facets considered, Gizmon had in fact put himself at considerable disadvantage and risk by pursuing this endeavor.

    Winnow, however stubborn and defensive, had little choice in the matter and Gizmon knew this no doubt.

    Perhaps it was his knowledge of Winnow’s vulnerability and desperation that aided in his trusting her.

    Winnow turned her head towards the skylight above the courtyard in which they stood then slowly returned her gaze to Gizmon sitting on his mount.

    This time her gaze was softer.

    “ I will provide the vials” she softly admitted. “ but do not be mistaken Gizmon, if you try to turn on me, I will ensure you fall with me”.

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  • Antonino Pitarresi

    John was an ordinary person in an ordinary town. Everyday he went to work, his ordinary work, and, after he finished his day, he returned home, his ordinary home with his sweet ordinary family. He was happy, maybe and one day he ended up asking himself “am I happy?”. It’s true: John was an ordinary person, but in his heart he was brave, he had dreams big dreams, but he had never tell anyone. He thought those were only repressed desires and he was scared of telling someone what he wanted “maybe they will judge me, maybe… maybe… maybe” and all continued to go and go until one day something happened.
    It was a normal day like the other ones, he was crossing the road in front of his house when he saw a little child who didn’t notice a car was going to kill him. he took a breathe and started to run, as fust as he could! He managed to push the child off the street but the car cut off his leg. An ambulance rushed and took him to the hospital. He was alive but he lost a part of his body. This made him think “I need to change my life” and after few minutes he decided to leave everything behind him. He left even his family.
    But what did he leave everything for? His big dream was to have the change of helping people, so he decided to go to Africa. It was difficult though. He was kind of bullied from the others but he took a decision. After few days he definitively left his home and everything else, he started a new life.
    Africa was beautiful: the landscape, the people and the work too! Everything seemed to be perfect. It was one year he was there, he missed his family and he sent them some postcard from his new city. After few months him wife understood his decision and accepted it.
    years and years went by and at the end he decided to come home, but just after the last mission: make the city free. In fact his African city wasn’t that free: he was controlled by an american multinational who slaved people and made them work for at least 18 hours per day.
    He and his best friend Abasi organised everything for months and citizens took part of the plan because they were sick of everything.
    The day came and when the sun arose they attached the factory and the guard. It took few minutes to make the city free again. He cried, everybody cried.
    He returned to his ordinary city with the heart full of joy: his ordinary city wasn’t the ordinary city of the past, everything changed and his dream came true. He was happy now!

  • Anonymous

    This white room is the only I have left. Everything else I held close is gone. The people controlling this room have no hearts, no souls. Minds with wicked, twisted intents, and a wild evil grin plastered across their faces is how I imagined them for a while, like the evil scientist from a kids’ cartoon. But worse, keeping me captive and crazy, struggling under their thumbs, helpless. I bet every evil scientist in those cartoons would cringe at the nicest things that the people controlling me do. 
         I’ve always been that person that can get into the deepest recesses of people and manipulate them, but I didn’t do it for that kind of stuff. I did it to help people, to make them realize what needed to be done for their depression, for their anger, for their guilt. But I have also been easy to get to. I have been manipulated many times before, by the very people that I help. But never to this degree.
         The people controlling this room are forcing me to complete challenges. Every day- or so it seems- they put new things into the white room, and I have to figure out what to do with them.   
         Sounds fun, huh?
         In the beginning, it was just the white love seat, the white coffee table, the lightbulb hanging on a wire from the ceiling, and the ceiling, walls, and floor around me. All completely white. The ceiling is only about a foot or two above me, and it’s a popcorn ceiling. I have tried before to stand on the coffee table and peel through it, but behind the popcorn there’s pure steel. So no escape.
         The lightbulb, which provides the only light source to the entire space, has never flickered once. It is constant with light, but it shines too bright. So I can’t stand too long staring up at it or my eyes will get spotty and weird. So I get really bored just standing in this too bright room, alone. 
         After a while, I start to get panicky. I assumed at the start of my time here that I would be let out soon. But many people, in fact,  just about all humans, are too quick to assume. We all assume we are going to be okay and everything will go back to normal, but once things change, we have to get used to them. Then they become the new normal. Humans are great adapters, sometimes.
         
    Probably took me more than 15 minutes, but whatever.

    • Sarah Coulter

      Great Job! I would say the verb tense was a little confusing for me. Writing in the present tense can be difficult if the sentences are too complex. But awesome descriptions! I could see it all clearly.

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