The following post on finding your blogging voice was submitted by Lance from Honey and Lance.
We all know that content is king, and we’re also aware (sometimes painfully) that the vast majority of bloggers come from non-writing backgrounds. This means we come across a lot of bad writing. Grammar, structure, even spelling is the pits. Ever surf into a blog where you thought, “Gee, great idea, too bad I can’t read this.” Then click away? Me too.
I’m not hating on bloggers…I love bloggers, and any medium that gets regular people writing and giving value is a great thing, even if the writing isn’t so hot. The good news is, just by reading a resource or two and by pumping out content, it’s pretty easy to improve the technical aspects of your writing. Grammar and structure isn’t that hard, we have spell checkers to correct our misspellings, and thesaurus.com to improve our vocabulary.
So what’s the best way to supercharge your writing and really take your content to the next level? The answer is developing a unique VOICE. Joel Falconer wrote a great post on voice here, and I want to expand on his ideas.
Voice is the distinct sound/feeling your words create in a reader’s mind. Voice is what makes your writing unique. Voice can be changed, massaged, enhanced, and even manufactured. One of my favorite blogs is fakesteve.blogspot.com. Ever heard of it? Dan Lyons blogs as a caricature of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The voice comes across as acerbic, neurotic, arrogant, narcissistic, dripping with irony, and just plain hilarious.
Fake Steve is unique, and more importantly, his voice makes reading Apple news compelling and fun. In fact, it’s more than compelling. It’s addictive. Several hundred thousand fans visit each month, and Fake Steve’s voice is what brings them in.
So how do you find your voice and have it permeate your blog? Here is my 6 step method. These are pretty simple, but a few of them require a fair amount of work. Nothing new for a problogger.
image by platinum
1. Find 10 Blogs that have an interesting, unique voice.
If you’re already a hardcore blogger, you probably have 10 blogs lined up. If not, start looking at blogrolls and find them. Fakesteve is a fine starting point. Problogger.net is written with a certain voice. Can you name the qualities? After that, go immediately to bloggies.com and check out any of the award nominees. Pay special attention to the Most Humorous and Best Writing categories. Read those blogs and soak in what makes them unique. You’ll find that ALL of the top authors have a distinct voice.
2. Brainstorm the qualities you want.
Get a piece of paper or fire up Word and just punch out qualities of your potential voice. Don’t know what that voice is? Identify it, stat. If you’ve got a blog about technology, you might shoot for: brainy, geeky, clear, authoritative, dry. If you’re writing about Premiership soccer, you might try: flippant, cheeky, cynical, zealous. Sometimes when I’m writing fiction, I like to give certain characters counter-intuitive voices, ie assign them qualities you wouldn’t expect. Try writing your tech blog in the cheeky, cynical, zealous soccer voice. Now you’re creating a unique and fun reader experience.
3. Experiment with your voice.
Once you have a couple of ideas, try writing a single post in those voices. The content will be the exact same, but the reader experience will be different. When experimenting, go over the top, and see what your stuff sounds like when you get really crazy. Try writing a post about soccer in a Hunter S. Thompson voice. Go nuts.
Once you do that, you’ve got a range to operate in, and you’ll have a handle on where you can take it. I would even write 3-4 posts to get a feel as you move across different subjects, post structures, and word counts. On one of my blogs, I wrote 10 posts before settling on a voice, and then I went back and revised every post to make sure the voice was consistent.
4. Decide what voice is best for your Blog.
After you’ve experimented, you should have a pretty solid idea of what’s going to work for your content and what you’re comfortable with. The key here is sustainability. Whatever voice you settle on, you better be able to write in that voice every single day…forever! Make sure it’s something you enjoy and feels natural. If you can’t do Fear and Loathing without struggling, that might not be the right voice for you.
5. Become a character, and get into that character’s head.
On my dating advice blog, I write as Lance. Lance isn’t the real name of the author, it’s a pseudonym. When I write as Lance I actually imagine a fictional character, a guy with his own unique personality. That let’s me assume his voice when I sit down to blog and the words flow from there. I’ll not only imagine what he sounds like, but I’ll imagine what he looks like, what he’s wearing, his haircut, even his mannerisms. That way, I have reference points to use, and I can answer the question, “how would Lance respond to this?”
Not only does this have functional value, but it’s a lot of fun get in character and write. Lance is a slice of my id, and it’s a cool release.
6. Read real books.
Are you reading books in your spare time? Real books? If you’re not, and you’re serious about being a professional blogger, get to Borders and pick some up. There’s an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet, but good literature is scarce. Reading feeds your head and informs your blogging. Reading will open you up to what’s out there and what’s possible with voice. I recommend starting with some classics. Try Hemingway. Try Delillo. Try Toni Morrison. Try Grace Carol Oates. Try Cormac McCarthy. All of these authors have will take you to school on voice.
If you’re looking for shorter, more digestible pieces, I highly recommend anything in the Best American Series:
- Best American Sport Writing
- Best American Fiction
- Best American Non-Fiction
- Best American Essays
Any of these will introduce you to a ton of fresh voices and give you ideas for expanding your writing. After I go to the bookstore, I always feel jacked and ready to pump out killer content.
So there you go, 6 steps to create your own voice and take your blog content to the next level. By the way, what’s the #1 most subscribed blog on the planet? That’s right, it’s Engadget. A tech blog with a unique, witty voice that is fun to read.
Read more of Lance’s work at Honey and Lance