Thoughts About Writing Inspired by #FinCon12 (part 1)

Writers are writers. It doesn’t matter whether they write fiction or non-fiction, books or blogs. Writers feel the need to write. And writers want to talk about writing.
I am at a conference for finance bloggers this weekend. Much of the content of the conference is about blog content, blog design, ways to grow the blog, etc. But there has been only one talk on the craft of writing. In this case, it was about the importance of voice in writing. It was a good talk, but what I found most interesting were the questions at the end. There were questions about voice- does “consistency” matter in voice, how do you find your “voice” when you’re writing informative articles, and what about voice when you manage a site with multiple authors.
Other questions were more about the basic craft- hints for writing, exercises to make yourself a better writer, etc.

While the speaker at the talk gave her answers, I felt like they were limited by her experience as a journalist and blogger. That may seem odd, but I think having the combination of fiction and non-fiction writing experience gives me a slightly broader view.

If you write as you, your voice will always be consistent. Your voice doesn’t stop being your voice when you write an emotional post. It may have more anger or joy or sadness than other posts, but the voice remains the same. You don’t stop being you, you don’t stop speaking with your voice when you’re emotional- there’s just an added element.

As for finding a voice when you’re writing informative articles, my first question is- are you writing for a text book? If you’re not writing a text book, you’ve got room for voice. Even financial writers for the Wall Street Journal and The Economist have their own unique voices. The next response is that you are a blogger. People don’t come to blogs to read what they would read in a text book. If that’s what they were looking for, they would be at the library. People read blogs, even personal finance blogs, because of the personal. They need the financial information, but they are looking for it in a personal format because that makes it easier to understand, easier to digest, and even easier to follow. You’re not a nameless “expert” writing about what they “should do”; you’re a real person who has been there done that. Your struggles help them feel not alone. Your successes help them feel like they can do it to. You always want you in your posts. And if you do that, they will have voice.

If you manage a multiple author blog (kind of like editing an anthology or newsletter), unless you are asking all of your authors to pretend to be the same person, you want them all to have their own unique voices. There’s no point in having multiple writers if you are not looking for multiple points of view and multiple voices.
That doesn’t mean you don’t want some consistency in the blog. But you don’t get that consistency by trying to control their voices. You create a style guide for the blog. You have guidelines for content, perhaps formatting requirements (or you format the posts yourself, instead of letting the authors format them). But consistency in your blog does not have to mean forcing your writers to have the same voice. In fact, trying to force that will probably lose you your writers.

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