What do you sound like?
I re-wrote some of my posts recently. Either that I forgot, or that I never knew, but it never occurred to me that non-fiction was much more than vomiting all this knowledge you have on paper. Maybe I forgot how I talked, or how I sound like even. Did you find your voice?
There is style, tone, and all that jazz. There are personal stories, variety in sentence lengths, and formatting.
It’s the same as fiction-writing, albeit with a different flavour. Fiction is more about imagination, while non-fiction is more about understanding. The best writing uses both.
I follow a few bloggers that inspire me, not only in what they know (and they definitely know a lot!), but also in how relatable they are. They seem just like friends, or better yet, strangers that you have a small chat with when passing by on the street.
But these are the kinds of strangers that say something meaningful each time you talk to them. They last in your memory.
That feeling is the core of what I want to do: to write with that level of personality, and to write as natural and raw as them. So, I recorded the feeling.
If you want to learn how to write naturally, look no further: I wrote this for myself, and now it’s for you.
The point of my writing is to make things easy for people to understand. That means that I can’t use over-the-top words, and I can’t drone on for too long when explaining something.
I’m not trying to be lecturer, I just want to be a friend. I want to be the smart guy in the conversation who can teach you something over a few beers.
Let’s down them and here we go:
Find Your voice
What kind of books do you read? What do you like to talk about?
These questions can come up in conversation: you can imagine me asking you this if we meet for the first time. But talking is communicating, and writing falls in the same category.
Do an audit of what you like to read. Is it short, personal articles by your favourite blogger? Is it the news? As you read these pieces, your mind starts to understand how certain words are used.
Your favourite fiction author can write pages of description using poetic language, and you might fall for that. A news article could be short and to the point, leading to a factual and direct writing style. There is no right or wrong here: What you read is what will help you write.
When you start writing, these pieces help build the pen you’re holding. You’ll find your voice. Your thoughts need to travel to paper: the pen is the tool, and your voice is your style of using it.
You can build it by learning how other people hone their voice. Then, you will find yours.
Listen to what others think about it
I asked my partner recently what she thought of my writing. I then asked her what she thought of this other blogger’s, whom I’m a big fan of. She said:
If I’d say you’re a scholar, he’s like a popular blogger. But, you’re good at making difficult topics easier for people to understand. That’s the way I always learn new things from you 🙂
This was what I wanted to achieve.
I may not be the same as the blogger-I’m-a-fan-of, but I wanted to teach things in my own way. Writing simplified. Explaining things for the layman to understand.
How you talk makes things easier for me to understand.
I loved hearing this sentence. It sounded so much like me.
This became my standard process:
- Am I writing like how I normally talk?
- By writing this, is it making the topic easier for her to understand?
These two should sit at the very top of anything that I write. This is the benchmark. If the answer to either of those two questions for any sentence is no, I would delete the whole sentence and start over.
If you’re shouting all the time, even you won’t listen to what you just said.
You might be confusing people, or what you’re saying could be too complicated.
Break it down a bit, step by step. Start by asking people around you what they think of your writing. Ask them the following:
- Does this (writing) sound like me?
- Can you imagine me saying this in conversation/in real life?
- What would I normally say here/about this topic?
Your friends might be able to help you out with little suggestions here and there! Useful stuff. It doesn’t mean that you should swear every fifth word in your writing (which I do, if you ever talk to me in real life), but hearing these little tidbits can give you that extra flair to attract more readers to your blog.
Now, what if you’re shy? What if you don’t want to show your friends your first draft? This can help:
Read your first draft out loud
Does it sound like you when you’re talking?
Readers relate to you more when you sound like you’re talking directly to them.
It seems obvious, but when you’re too busy typing and not saying anything, your words start to sound different.
It makes sense, because the reader isn’t in front of us. We can’t explain it to them directly, and we can’t use hand gestures to show which part is important. There’s no nearby whiteboard with a diagram they need to see.
What should we do? Pretend.
Pretend the reader is in front of you, having a conversation with you. You bring up this topic, and they ask you:
What do you have to say about it?
You only need to answer the following questions:
- Is this how I talk?
- Does this sound like what I would say to my friends?
- Am I using words that I feel comfortable using in a real conversation?
This is how you filter out the useless words: if you’re not going to use complicated words while talking, why use them in writing?
The point of this exercise is to make it easier for readers to understand what you are trying to say. If you’re filling the post up with technical words, you might be expressing yourself well, but you’re making it harder for people to get your point.
Thesauruses are handy for this: you can find easier words to deliver the same meaning you had in your head. As a reader, I want to know what you think. If you could help me with that as efficiently as possible, that would be fantastic.
Remember, words are your only tool in the art of writing. The order, the usage, the tenses, the structure: it’s all words.
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Write like you talk. Readers from all around the world will know how you talk in real life, and it will be the same as them meeting you in person. That gives them something to relate to, meaning a higher chance for them to follow you.
But remember, writing and talking are both different forms of communicating. They are both skills that we can build. This is the art of combining both, and learning it now can be extremely useful for all your future writing.
Wouldn’t it be great if I could understand your entire story without any extra explanation? As if I was there in front of you, saying yes with an smiling face, and thanking you for the amazing story.
By writing like how you talk, you are allowing me to peek into your mind, get exactly what you are trying to say, and enjoy the process. You get understood, and we’re all happy: it’s a win-win.
Of course, this is just one of the ways to write. You could write detailed documentations, or business proposals, or go full creative with poetry and prose.
It seemed like the easiest way to start off writing, because you can make good use of what you already have: talking.
Plus, it’s friendly. Writing lets out what’s inside of your head, and if people like that, they’ll follow your writing wherever it goes.
So write and talk, both at the same time. Be more user friendly.
If you want more on writing, check this out as well!