I am creating a book entitled “How to Write Your Way, and in Your Own Voice.” Most writers do not write their own way. They write the way they were taught by teachers or editors or books on writing. Unfortunately the methods they learned may not suit them at all, but they don’t know any other ways to write.
Think back to your school years. Most writers, including you, are taught to outline a piece before they type it. For some people, outlines help organize their thoughts; for others, outlines imprison them and keep them from thinking clearly.
Some of the methods writers assume they must use actually hurt them: make them slow, damage their confidence, and make them inaccurate. I once coached a star writer who believed she had to have a perfect, fabulous first paragraph (the lead) before she could write anything else. She would type a lead, weep, erase it, weep, type a new lead, weep, etc. for about a month before something appeared on her screen she could live with. I showed her that she needed a perfect lead at the end of the typing, not at the beginning. She asked, “Then how would I start?” I replied, “Write a draft lead, one good enough to get you going.” And then I told her I wrote the lead last.
This book depends on what we call “Your Writing Process,” which has five steps:
In the IDEA stage, you decide what you want to write about. The idea might come from the outside, when you get an assignment, or you might originate the idea and develop it. You essentially figure out what the piece will be like. Is it a book, or a magazine article, a radio script, a memoir, a letter to your mother, etc.? Then you decide what you need to find out, and how.
In the GATHER stage, you collect material from various sources, such as documents, interviews, the Internet, etc. Journalists call this step “reporting.”
In the ORGANIZE stage, you decide what you want to say and how to say it.
The next two stages, DRAFT and REVISE, involve typing. DRAFTING creates a rough version of the piece. Then you REVISE it to finish it.
Each of those stages involves many actions. The writing process is a collection of such actions: techniques, tricks, habits, etc. that get the piece written. For maximum effect, you don’t need a writing process that worked for your teachers. You need your own writing process that works for you.
You can create your own writing process with the aid of this book, which will teach you many ways to do all the stages. And you can tune your process to match your writing needs. That’s what I mean by “Writing Your Own Way.”
But wait, there’s more, as they say on TV. You can not only write in your own way, but also in your own voice. Voice is the way your writing sounds to readers. Voice is what makes writing individual and compelling.
Just as your writing process is a collection of individual techniques, your writing voice results from using individual devices consistently to create a personality. The second half of this book will teach you how to create your own writing voice.