How to Find Your Voice

What is it that separates good writers from mediocre ones? How does one make themself stand out in the midst of so many other writers in the world? Voice. Voice is sometimes elusive and sometimes hard to explain, but it is important to every great writer. Diction and voice go hand in hand, so do point of view and voice, but it’s not defined by any one thing. Voice is unique to each individual writer — you have a voice too — and it can make you stand out from the metaphorical crowd.


So if it’s so hard to explain, then what is voice? How do we, as writers, work on establishing our individual voices? Jennifer Sinor in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction explains voice as being defined by what is lacking. She says “Voice…is one of the most vital yet ephemeral qualities of writing. We can’t point to it on the page, pin it down, say that here, right here, in the way this sentence runs or in this choice of words or in this use of detail, we have a voice. Rather, we note its absence by the distance we feel from the writer, from the subject, or from the words on the page.” If you’ve done your fair share of reading (which you should have, if you are at all interested in becoming a writer), then you’ve likely identified an author’s voice in writers you‘ve come to love. Most often in my own examination of a work of literature, I notice voice when I see clever turns of phrases and ways of using words that just make sense. Voice makes a story flow on the page in a way that works and that gives insight into a character, narrator, or world perfectly.


Janet Burroway compares a writer’s voice with their audible voice in Imaginative Writing. Often, you can tell who is speaking — celebrity, family member, or friend — just by hearing the sound of their voice. We all have ways of speaking that differentiate us from each other. It may be that we say “uh” too often, have a southern twang to each syllable, or pronounce words uniquely so that they stick out when you hear them said. We lack the ability to hear words being said when we read, as writers, we have only the words on the page to develop our voice, and Burroway says, that this is done primarily through diction, which conveys “not only the facts but what we are to make of them, not only the situation but its emotional coloration, not only the identity but also the attitude of the person who speaks from the page.”


But how do we, as writers, write in such a way that makes our voice clear?
The most important step is to simply practice writing. As I recently heard from my boss (who is not a writer, I might add), writers write. So start writing! Experiment. Write from a third-person point of view and make your narrator a character in the story. Write the same scene a million different ways with a different tone each time. Make a character come across as snobby without describing them that way, make a character seem shy without describing them as quiet, figure out how to describe a character by only explaining their physical actions, and then try it all over again.


Developing your voice is hard work, and, as Burroway also says, “an author’s voice has a quality developed over time.” Your voice won’t become distinct overnight, you have to get to writing! So pull out your pen and notebook, or your laptop and your trusty fingertips, and get going. The best advice, for now, comes once again from Burroway (go read her book if you’re new to writing — there is much to learn from her skilled essays and prompts) — “seek to voice, and your voice will follow.”


We live in a world where there are a million voices coming at us every day — a mile a minute — so cultivate your own garden of words and your voice will grow. One day, and one word, at a time.

Previously published in The Creative Cafe

Merry Christmas

Hello to all,

Happy Holidays! To all and any holiday you may celebrate, the editors here at borrowed solace wish that your celebrations be blessed and as happy as they can be in the middle of COVID-19.

For a quick update, submissions for our Spring 2021 journal will close January 31, 2021. If you want to submit, we would love to see what you have in store. Head over our website and click the submissions tab!

For those who want a list or something to read on this day of merry cheers, check out the link for some of the most highly recommended Christmas books.

Thanks for sticking with us this year! May your Christmas be very merry, and very bright!

Love,

The borrowed solace editors

Write Forevermore

If you’re like me, you’ve probably already listened to Taylor Swift’s new album, evermore, multiple times this morning. Or maybe you’re a normal person who didn’t wake up and immediately play the new album and lay in bed reading the lyrics as you listened. Either way, I would encourage you to use evermore (or your favorite album from your favorite artist that came out recently) as writing inspiration!

I find that I get my inspiration from the oddest places at times, but something that almost always can serve as inspiration is music. Music is essentially poetry put to instruments. Lyricists rely on words to tell a story through their music just like writers use words to create other worlds. Words are the foundation upon which we stand, so why not take inspiration from the words of others?

evermore is an album made up of stories. Taylor Swift created people–some imaginary, some based on real-life–to write these songs about. Some of them are characters from her folklore album released earlier this year, some have tragic storylines, some wind up with their true love at the end. But they are all stories.

So today, if you are looking for inspiration or somewhere to start with your writing, I’d encourage you to pick a song from evermore (or another story-driven album) and write the backstory, what happens next, or the other character’s perspective. Turn your writing into a response song, or a poem, or a short story. I’m sure you could even find enough inspiration to write a novel if you tried!

As always, we are eager to see what you come up with. Share in the comments below or, if you are so inclined, submit it to the journal for consideration!

S3 Episode 5: Writing and the Holidays

On this episode–our last of 2020–Addey and the other borrowed solace editors, Amber and Nicole, talk about the holidays. What does writing have to do with Christmas? Have any of the editors written stories about the holidays? What does December look like this year? Tune in to find out!

Happy Thanksgiving!

From all of us at borrowed solace to all of you. While this year has been one full of tragedy, difficulty, and strife, we always have something to be thankful for, and for all of us, that most definitely includes you!

I am thankful for my healthy family and friends. Especially, my dogs who keep me sane and calm during the holidays. I hope to all the writers and readers, you have a safe thanksgiving!

-Nicole

I’m thankful that all of my family, including my fellow editors, are doing well–and doing the best that they can–during the chaotic mess that has been this year. I’m also thankful that our readers have stuck with us and that we can continue our journey to provide them with solace.

-Amber

I am thankful for continued reminders throughout this terrible year that life is truly incredible! From friends, family, and our borrowed solace community…

-Addey

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving, borrowed solace family!

S3 Episode 4: Resources

In season three, episode four of the podcast, Addey was joined by Nicole to talk about her graduate program in publishing.

For more information on the Master of Professional Studies in Publishing at George Washington University, click here.

For more information on Harlequin (the publisher Addey went on a tangent about) click here.

And, of course, we want to hear from you! Imagine we are chatting on the phone about our Thanksgiving prep and the coming holiday week when the conversation turns to this week’s podcast. What did you think? Comment down below!

What Makes a Good Poem?

When you think of poetry, your mind might go to the classics. Perhaps to Homer’s The Odyssey or to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales — both epic stories told in meter and reflected in the tropes of modern storytelling still used today.

Or maybe when you think of poetry your mind travels to the sonnets of Shakespeare and the religiosity of Donne’s work.

Perhaps you are like many who only recently discovered the beauty of poetry on Instagram, seeing the blaring white background of a poem in a picture, the black typewritten words of Rupi Kaur or Nikita Gill sitting on the screen.

Poetry has always provoked emotion. It pricks at the corners of our minds that long to feel. It wakes up sentiments in our hearts that have long been hiding under a pillow, attempting to ignore the alarm clock screeching to wake them up.

But what makes poetry work this way?

What makes ancient Italian sonnets as heart wringing as modern free verse? What brings readers back again to read the words of Emily Dickinson for the one hundredth time and elicits an audible gasp when hearing spoken word read aloud?

As the poetry editor of borrowed solace: a journal of literary ramblings, I have read a lot of poems. Each reading period, we receive hundreds of unsolicited poetry submissions for consideration. Much of the poetry is good. It fits the form of what a poem should be and uses intricate language, leaning on literary devices to create a vivid image. But not all of the poems we receive are great — we have about a 5% acceptance rate when all is said and done (which is quite high considering how few prose pieces are accepted.)

So what catapults a poem from the slush pile to the accepted pile with a note slapped on the side it’s a favorite of the bunch?

More often than not it’s what isn’t said.

With poetry, less is more.

Being able to evoke strong images and bring out even the most buried of emotions in the reader is a feature that I believe poetry excels at. That blaring white background is where the real work in poetry takes place. There’s more reading between the lines than ever in a poem — the actual words on the page are few and far between.

The poems that do not make it into the journal are the ones trying to tell a fiction or nonfiction story in poem form.

I don’t need the whole sordid tale to be included in a poem, I need the moments that make the heartbreak clear, the milliseconds of elated joy that leave the speaker speechless. I don’t need the whole story, I need the best (or worst) parts.

As someone who also writes poetry as well as prose, this can be hard. It’s often so much easier to spell everything out, to leave the “he saids” and the “she looked” in a poem that is trying to tell a story from start to finish. If you struggle with this, maybe the experience or topic you’re jittering to write about isn’t meant to be a poem. Maybe it wants to be a short story. Maybe it needs to be a personal essay.

Poets who succeed today at writing the best poems are not the ones writing epics in iambic pentameter. Maybe that’s an experiment worth attempting, but it’s not what will capture a reader’s spirit upon reading a sparse few stanzas.

Learn how to utilize what’s not said. Learn how to capture the moments and images that beg to be captured and leave the rest behind. Find the essence of what you want to record and record that essence, but leave behind the rest.

That is what makes for a good poem.

Previously published in Bookishly.

S3 Episode 3: Resources

This week on borrowed solace: the podcast, Addey was joined by fiction editor, Amber, to talk about writers and how they are portrayed in pop culture. This was a fun episode with not too many serious resources discussed, but here are just some of the TV shows and books we discussed in the episode:

Gilmore Girls

Murder She Wrote

Criminal Minds

Council of Dads

Gossip Girl

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Secret Window by Stephen King

Misery by Stephen King

The Bold Type

So what did you think about this week’s episode? Do you think writer’s are portrayed accurately in pop culture, or not so much? Pretend we are having a socially distanced writer’s night and talking about the episode. Leave your thoughts (or some more examples) down in the comments below!