What? I Can Write! Who Do You Sound Like?

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“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson

Who Do You Sound Like?

When you write, who do you sound like? Some writers say, "I want to sound like Hemingway," or "I want to write like Faulkner," or "I want to be the next Stephen King or John Grisham." There's nothing wrong with being inspired by writers whose style you admire, but your primary goal as a wordsmith should be to sound like you. The best writers are memorable because they have a distinctive "voice"—a writing style that sets them apart from all others.

Style can be understood in two ways: first, as a conventional set of rules and standards regarding spelling, grammar, punctuation, word usage, etc.—the "skeleton" or framework upon which a story hangs; and second, as a distinctive manner of expression—the "heart and soul" or "voice" of the writer.

At your best, your writing should sound like no one else's; it should have a voice that is distinctively yours. As William Zinsser explains, "My commodity as a writer, whatever I'm writing about, is me. And your commodity is you. Don't alter your voice to fit your subject. Develop one voice that readers will recognize when they hear it on the page..."

Developing your writer’s voice is not a matter of inventing one as much as it is discovering the unique voice you already have. As a writer, you have a distinct voice that is just as unique as your fingerprints. No one else on earth can write what you want to write and say it the way you can say it. Many different voices and personalities may influence your individual style, but your unique personality will transform those influences into a writing voice that is distinctively and unmistakably yours.

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