by Suzie Eller
I received a manuscript a couple of years ago from a writer friend. She was warm and funny in person, so I looked forward to reading her words. However, within a couple of pages, I put it down. The warm, funny person I knew was nowhere to be found. Sadly, the more I read the less I liked it. I knew this author, but the writing felt unnatural. I couldn’t connect the real person with the author of this work-in-progress manuscript.
Imitate: emulate; follow; copy; parrot; counterfeit; pattern after.
In today’s Tuesday Tip, we’ll examine three ways to avoid the “I” word:
1. Be you
As much as I love Southern literature, if I try to write a nonfiction book with lots of Southern charm and ya’lls, it’s not going to fly. Saying “ya’ll” in my ordinary life feels odd, so it shouldn’t show up in my writing. As much as I love Ann Voskamp, my writing will sound pretentious because poetic prose doesn’t fall from my lips naturally. As writers we read prolifically, but we also resist the temptation to imitate anyone.
Give yourself permission to be uniquely you, for you bring value to the reader.
- Don’t use words that you wouldn’t normally.
- Avoid writing styles that are ill-fitting.
(For example, my friend felt like she had to sound like a teacher to be a Christian writer. In truth, she was a great Bible teacher, but her warmth and personality brought her words to life.)
2. Read your words out loud
Reading your words out loud help you hear them as a reader. As you do, imagine a friend sitting across from you. Ask:
- Would she be confused?
- Does it feel natural?
- Do your words capture the heart of your personality and message (or someone else’s)?
- If you are brave enough, ask someone else to read your words out loud. This is a whole new level of listening!
The goal isn’t to imitate, but to be your best original self.
Share your thoughts on the COMPEL blog on how you remain true to your own writing voice. Take your current work-in-progress and read it out loud… does it sound like your voice? or does it sound like your take on a popular writer? How do you plan on staying true to your writing voice?
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