On an episode of Cheers, I think Frazier Crane best described the importance of using your own words by saying, “As Dr. Bennett Ludlow once said, ‘I shall speak no thoughts but mine own.’”

You can read as many “how to” books and go to as many writing classes as you want, but none of those things will teach you the most important part of writing—finding your voice.

What is “your voice” you ask and how do you find it?  Those are good questions.  It’s certainly not like finding your car keys.  It’s more akin to finding your faith.  It’s that thing that calls to the reader from beyond the text, like a distant wind that whispers through the trees.  (Wow, I’m a poet.)   It’s like your spirit or maybe even the force.  That’s right my young apprentice—gives your work strength, it does.

It’s not even something you can teach yourself; it’s something that just has to grow and evolve as you write.  It’s that invisible constant that makes a body of work uniquely yours, sprinkled with your intellect, smothered in your wit, and with just a dash of your sarcasm.

Even though agents and publishers might say they’re looking for writers in the vein of Tom Clancy, James Patterson, John Grisham, or Stephen King, it doesn’t mean they want a writer who tries to emulate these guys.  You will never find your voice if the words aren’t even yours.

That’s also why we learn to stay away from clichés.  Phrases become clichés once they have been said a few billion times, so how unoriginal can you get?  A person’s gaze can only bore a hole through so many souls.

I have a book in my office titled, “You Career in the Comics.”  In it, an editor of one of the major syndication companies says, “People are always sending us cartoon ideas claiming they have the next Calvin and Hobbes.  We don’t want the next Calvin and Hobbes; we want the next original idea.”

It’s the same with my business.  Ever since Harry Potter hit the scene, a third of our submissions are about a young boy wizard.  I can only imagine how many manuscripts out there involve vampires who sparkle.

Yes, this is two articles in a row where I make fun of the Twilight series, but hey, that’s my voice.



Neal Wooten, Publisher/Indie Author/Illustrator/Cartoonist

Managing Editor; Mirror Publishing, Milwaukee, WI,
Author of Reternity,

Posted by on April 2, 2012. Filed under Books,Neal Wooten. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

32 Responses to Originality

  1. Rebecca Fronzaglio

    April 3, 2012 at 7:38 am

    So true Neal. I was watching a documentary on the story To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m not sure if I read it in highschool. But then again if I did, I’m sure I wouldn’t have forgotten I read it. During the documentary they were speaking of the author and explaining how this book was based on real characters and events that took place during the authors childhood. Also, the story was made into a movie. The author never wrote another novel. Many said, the book was so excellent because she wrote from her heart and her own experiences and therefore she couldn’t write about anything else. Because basically, the story told the story she wanted to tell. Even though I know I’m going to be sad when I read some parts of the story, I feel the need to order it online today. I need to be apart of her world. Her vision. Her compassion. If not for any other reason, but to know that there were then, and still are, people who care about the human race. No matter what color the skin. God made us all, and Heaven isn’t segregated. I look forward to this read.

    • Neal Wooten

      April 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

      Oh yes, Harper Lee. Like me – from Alabama. I guess considering her book has never been out of print in 50 years, and never sold less than 250,000 copies a year, she doesn’t have to write another one.

      • Rebecca Fronzaglio

        April 3, 2012 at 9:05 am

        Now I’ll own 2 great novels from 2 great Alabama authors…Your “Reternity” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. May you sell 250,000 copies a year…after all…you should.

  2. Barbara

    April 3, 2012 at 7:48 am

    Amen. I have a guest post on Successful Blogging coming up next week on finding your voice. In my case it was by speaking my mind on hot button issues that drew the most traffic and comments to my blog. But of course in The Duffy Chronicles I speak for Duffy.;)
    Good advice Neal.

  3. Victoria Williams-Fisher

    April 3, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Great point in the first sentence of your article. I have many friends who continually ask me how I manage to turn out novel after novel after novel. The answer is easy. In every spare moment I have I write. When I am not sitting in front of my computer, I am thinking. When I am walking-I’m concocting a story in my mind. When I am showering, eating, exercising, working-I am creating. I am constantly coming up with new ideas.
    I do try to stay in touch with the outside writing world.I read articles and try to attend my local writers group as often as possible. Every chance I get, I listen to other authors speak.
    I do not run off every weekend to writing seminars. I don’t enter every contest that comes along. I don’t update my blog as much as I should.
    I write. Writing has become an essential part of my every day existence. It is just as important to me as eating or exercising. It is a part of my life that no one can touch. No one can take this away from me. It is uniquely mine.
    My son paid me a huge compliment when he read Pescadero Creek, he said that even if my name disappeared from the cover of the book, he would know who wrote it. He saw me in every line he read.
    Who knows maybe someday soon novelists will be striving to become the next Victoria Williams-Fisher!

  4. corey colombin

    April 3, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Great article, Neal!
    I write like I talk, so my voice is all over my work (books and monthly columns, too). It’s in the editing that I have to limit myself with respect to run on sentences, and descriptive phrases. My dad belonged to a writing group and he offered to have a couple of the members review my manuscript (Confessions of a Coffee Slinger). As the story goes, one woman read a few paragraphs, and said “if she eliminates all the descriptive words,I’ll take another look at it.” Imagine my eagerness to do that! It also occurred to me that none of the folks in the writing group were published, and my intolerably descriptive writing is published monthly. Bottom line: take all advice with a grain of salt and stick to your own style.

    Corey Colombin
    author of Confessions of a Coffee Slinger
    author & Illustrator of Eli Ate a Fly and Poor Me

  5. John L Hoh Jr

    April 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Yes, therein lies the conundrum. Everyone wants the next Tom Clancy/John Grisham/Winstom Groom, etc., but they also want something *original*. The publishing business is about money, so if vampires are the “in” thing, then four other publishers will look (even in slush piles) for vampire stories. Not that another vampire story might not be welcome. But it does have to be original with a novel concept.

    I would urge writers to learn more about the business aspect of writing. Who know, you may learn to sell books under your own imprint and not have to share royalties from a publisher with an agent. How many authors have found success with Kindle–a virtual no-cost way to get your writing before the eyes of the public?

    Thanks for your advice, Neal! Very applicable, to “find one’s voice”. A new vampire story isn’t bad–if the story has elements of your struggles and conflicts in it. Same with angels.

    • Katherine Blanc

      April 3, 2012 at 9:14 am

      Good advice, John! We should continually educate ourselves about the ever-evolving business of writing and publishing.

  6. Katherine Blanc

    April 3, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I agree 100%. An author’s individual, authentic “voice” has a freshness and vibrancy that cannot be duplicated.

    I know from my personal experience that whenever I’ve attempted to imitate another writer’s style, the work has failed to connect with readers. Those painful lessons taught me to remain true to my own voice, which I have developed (and continue to develop) over time. The writing process itself is smoother, easier and far more pleasurable when the words are organically mine.

    Katherine Blanc

  7. Concetta Payne

    April 3, 2012 at 9:20 am

    I totally agree, Neal. A writer who creates a new concept, using their own broad imagination, is exactly what the plublishing industry searches for. But, too many of us have the same thoughts which causes the reader to wonder. Before my first children’s book BoBo the Race Car was released the movie “Cars” came out. So, I asked myself… what are you going to do Concetta? As you know Neal, I decided to continue with the BoBo series. I believe my stories are unique,entertaining and cover important issues that all children should be aware of. As you stated, I found my voice using my own words. Thanks Neal for your worthy advice.

  8. Dianna Skidmore

    April 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

    After reading your article, I had a revelation…I have been writing in my own “voice” for years and didn’t realize it! Some time ago, when I was in my teens, when letters were written in ink on paper and sent by snail mail, I wrote to my cousin’s wife on a regular basis. (They had included me in their wedding party and were living in Alaska with the military.) Anyhow, she commented that when she read my letters, it was like she was actually talking to me! What a complement! So my “voice” was active back then, in a small way. That’s how I want my books to read. And with your advice, they will! Thanks Neal!

    Dianna Skidmore
    Author of Can You Be Like Me?

  9. Mary Donaldson, author of MARY ELIZA

    April 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I plan to share this article with my granddaughter, Caitlin. She’s a talented fifteen year old who loves to write. This article is truly inspiring and worth sharing. You hit the nail on the head (again)!
    Thanks for all you do,

  10. Cathy Cress Eller

    April 3, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Spot on Neal! It is all I can do to write in my “own voice” much less trying to emulate someone else. When you “have stories in your head,” they are YOUR stories. My stories come in the early morning when I’m walking the dog or riding down the road or brushing my teeth. I guess you could classify that as either SPECIAL or NEEDING HELP. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, wit and encouragement to all us writers to continue to write in our own voice.

  11. Irma Jacobs Tirro Author of The Lonely Snowflake and It's Almost Friday

    April 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

    I love your words and what they mean. I have read many “how to” books but am still struggling. Having knowledge and applying that knowledge are two different things. I’m still searching for my “voice” and since I have numerous ideas that I want to write stories about, I hope I find it soon.

    Keep us on the right road!

  12. Laura Marlowe

    April 3, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Thank you, Neal, for highlighting “finding your voice.” As you stated, our voice is indeed an invisible constant; it cannot be denied. Thanks for writing O*RIG*IN*AL*ITY in your own voice.

  13. Tonya Neumeister, Author of My Dog Eats Peas

    April 3, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks Neal. My love of books and a list of favorite Authors has certainly been an inspiration to become an Author. I have to remember to pinch myself every now and then and remind myself that “my voice” is what people are listening to when they read my children’s book. I have been blessed with 2 children and several memorable events thus far to put on paper. When I am reading “My Dog Eats Peas” to groups of children, it’s like I am telling the story from my heart. Having experienced the situation inside the story, it’s easy and fun to share. of course, as I mentioned, certain Authors have been an inspiration but we need to inspire ourselves, too. Thanks again for the reminder to “just be myself.” :)

  14. Darcie Mae

    April 3, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    “Finding your voice,” I think is very important. I find I can write mostly for children and I write in rhyming wervse. I also like to try to teach something to the child as they read, plus make it fun reading. Lots Of times I will repeatin parts or rhyming parts that the children will surprise me and say right along with as me as I am reading the story. Find your voice, and find yourself.
    Darcie Mae
    Author of:
    Mother Mouse
    Mother Mouse :Bokk 2
    Mother Mouse Tells Mice Kids A Thanksgiving Story
    Mother Mouse Tells Kids Her Special Christmas Story
    All these stories are published by Neal and Mirror Publishing.
    I have The Sammy & Robert series of 6 books also listed on my website.
    Books are available on amazon, barnes & noble, and wholesalers as well. Any store should be ale to order the books for you.
    Thanks again. Have a grea April and Easter, Darcie Mae

  15. Lenore Lang

    April 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for your well-expressed point of view.
    Yes, we each have our own voice: Have you noticed
    that even on the telephone, or in a crowd, or –
    anyplace — we hear a familiar voice, and know
    it “right off the bat” because it’s special.
    You’re saying that’s true in writing, too,
    and it is!

  16. This is true and applies in life in general. I seen horrible movies come out that are base on a story that was a hit movie. Me, in myself, need to have a clear mind that is free of clutter.
    I create a series of stories from two brothers from a different planet. I spent a lot of time thinking about this.
    In my book “Z and Brad Go To The Park” which is based on a funny experience my sons had. The part of getting chase by a dog from the park. I know this is all mine. At my last book reading at Barnes and Noble the oldest boy listening to this story, told me he loves the characters. That is my fuel. I feel I need to get the series of “The Adventures of Z” out.

  17. Wow! Great article Neal! I have been invited to several schools and have had the pleasure of meeting many young aspiring authors. I have repeatedly advised them to make sure their ideas for stories are original but I did not even consider encouraging them to find their own original voice. I will surely be quoting you during my next school visit. Great advice Neal! -Jodi Fiore (Team Edward)

  18. Ellen Poppe, author of Tank: An Ugly Dog's Adventure and Tank: Hero in the Snow

    April 3, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Wow, Neal, what perfect timing for this article! This article is one I may have to share with my collegues as we have different views on teaching “voice” to our students. I so agree, “voice” is something you acquire over time. If you give me permission, I’d love to use your quote, “Voice…It’s not even something you can teach yourself; it’s just something that has to grow and evolve as you write.” “Voice” is one of the components our county wants us to teach our 4th grade students. I always find it a challenge…modeling it and expressing to them that it’s simply being you. However, a child is still trying to find their “voice” so it’s difficult for them to understand the concept. Once I tell them your quote, maybe this will help them. Thanks for such a great article!

    • Neal Wooten

      April 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      Of course – use away.

  19. Lisa Sarver

    April 3, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Neal~another great article. My voice lies within my heart and not my mind. My faith is my voice and hopefully resonates in everything I write. The inspiration for “The Grateful Spider” came from my own physical struggles with a couple of autoimmune diseases. Yes, there is always something to be grateful for…even in the midst of adversity. I’ve always looked at the glass half full instead of half empty. Hence my upcoming children’s book pertains to happiness. No wonder why all of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories and poems exhibit such a dark side. I could only imagine the painful and turbulent life he led. But not Poe, he lived it and used his voice ‘nothing more’.

  20. Sarah Mamika

    April 4, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Great article, Neal, and so very true. I discovered a long time ago that writing from the heart and listening to your own “voice” is the only way to go.

  21. Janet Davis

    April 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Neal, I totally agree with you! All of us as writers should express our own uniqueness in our writings this is what sets each of us apart. It doesn’t work taking an idea and trying to make it your own like singers do with songs. Neal keep on writing young man!

  22. Paula Parente author of "Annie's Amethyst" & "Rosalind's Rose Quartz"

    April 5, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Nice article, Neal!
    It’s a good reminder to not get caught up in cliches.
    I have to watch that, as sometimes they “roll off the tongue” too easily!

  23. Ellen May Frances Bolton

    April 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I once wrote a novel in which I later realised that every character in it was myself – from the 18 yr old male villian to the 53 yr old female schoolteacher – and all of the characters in between. So is fiction merely a jumbling of truth, events chronologically altered, re-assigned, even in your imagination or in how you see others? In relating to the world do you see a reflection of yourself? In being individual are we being original? I write under the name Frances Bolton:-

  24. Lonnie McKelvey

    April 9, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Good article. Its nice to know that words from “Cheers” continue to live on.
    You can’t teach someone their own voice-it has to come from their heart and soul.

  25. Alicia Freitas

    April 10, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Enjoyed your article once again Neal. It actually inspired me to get moving on my 4th book. :O)

  26. Sharon Farmer

    June 11, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I am finally able to have the time to read more for my own enjoyment now that I am retired. I have read thousands of books to children over the years, they learning from me AND I learning from them. I am now reading THE COLOR PURPLE and bought it at a used book store. I need to share with you that I knew what this book was about but wanted to read it and give it to my daughter because purple is her favorite color. It is so original and warm and interesting and makes me “itch” to want to write another children’s book, starting with a story that I wrote in fourth grade and how it related to my life through the years. Self-publishing is all about originality, and Neal makes us authors feel like real winners, not only wanting to write more but also wanting to read more. Congrats to a fine man!

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