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Develop Your Writing Voice

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

Source: Stencil

When an author’s voice connects with me as a reader, I can get obsessive. I binge their prose like Netflix and collect their books like Pokémon cards. Meanwhile, in the moments I’m not engrossed in their books, I read their short stories and essays, learn the turning points of their career, and find interviews to hear how closely that author’s speech resembles their written tone. It’s a form of brief obsession.

Even if this sounds a little extreme on the surface, I bet most writers desire some fraction of this curiosity from their readers. We don’t want our work to be just another forgotten article on the internet. We don’t want the books we’ve written to be left eternally bookmarked only a quarter of the way through on a dusty shelf. Because the level of author curiosity I’m describing has a name. We call it fandom

How do you gain true fans as an author? I’m not talking about occasional readers or the passing approval of a Clap on Medium. I mean: Someone loves your work so much, they must have a little more.

Voice in writing is the intersection of substance and flair. It is the personality of the storyteller on the page, the trusted voice of a friend telling us their story. But how do you find your own?

The good and bad news about finding your literary voice is that there are no shortcuts. We unearth our unique writerly voice by first returning to the foundation of all sound writing advice: 

  1. Read great authors 

  2. Write more than anyone else

1. Read great authors

The most consistent way to find great writing is to step away from the internet and read traditional media. Pick up a book or magazine. These works have usually been vetted with greater scrutiny than the average article you find scrolling Facebook, Medium, or even most opinion blogs on Forbes or Inc. 

Yes, there are many exceptions to this rule. But if you don’t know where to discover great authors, start in your local bookstore — not your Facebook feed. And when you step into your bookstore, you have a few ways of approaching learning from great authors: technical and observational. 


The technical approach to improving your writing involves reading style manuals. If you want a clear examination of how good writing works, there are literal books on the subject. I’m a fan of books like On Writing by Stephen King, Draft № 4 by John McPhee, or The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker. 

In fact, my favorite argument for reading books about the craft of writing comes from the prologue in The Sense of Style. Pinker writes: 

“I love style manuals… It’s not just that I welcome advice on the lifelong challenge of perfecting the craft of writing. It’s that credible guidance on writing must itself be well written, and the best of the manuals are paragons of their own advice.”

These books pull back the curtain on successful authors so we may glance at their processes and techniques. Learn writing straight from the masters.