In Part I, I examined how reading your work aloud can help energize your copy by picking up on inconsistencies in reasoning, skips in logic, poor grammar, and even misspellings. Today’s lesson is on harnessing the power of voice to help carry you through even the toughest case of writer’s block and get your words flowing for the most powerful writing of your life!
Steps to Powerful Writing:
Step One: Choose your subject.
Do you have a particular assignment you are working on? Articles, essays and non-fiction personal development books lend themselves well to this technique. Let’s choose a sample topic for the purposes of this example — I am going to choose (drum roll here) writer’s block!
Step Two: Line up some questions.
If you have a friend of family member with an interest in your subject, now’s the time to recruit their assistance. If you have an outline of your piece already, you can formulate some questions from this or you can simply ask your friend to write down some questions of their own about your subject matter. Here are some samples:
- What is writer’s block?
- How often have you experienced it?
- Is there anything in particular that seems to trigger it?
- What techniques do you recommend to overcome it?
- Which has worked the best for you and why?
- Which is your favorite?
- Which is your least favorite?
- Is there one that you feel doesn’t work at all?
- What would you recommend if none of these works for me?
Now you’re simply going to record a conversation between you and your friend as he or she asks you the questions they’ve come up with. Make sure you have either a tape recorder or a recording app (there are many available for iPhone or Android) that can document your convo. This informal interview will be a springboard for your new piece of writing. You can conduct the interview in person, through Skype or FaceTime, or even over the phone — you just need to get a good recording of your answers to the questions.
Sometimes questions other than your original ones will naturally arise as a result of your responses — that’s good! It gives an even more organic flavor to your responses, resulting in a fluid and more casual session.
A smooth, conversational tone is important in many types of writing — non-fiction is one that immediately springs to mind as being improved by writing that is as easy to follow as a chat with a friend.
Step Four: Transcribe
After you’ve conducted your interview, you’ll need to transcribe the results. You can hire this done very inexpensively through eLance or Fiverr or you can do it yourself. I invariably choose the latter because I am a) cheap and b) in need of instant gratification. If you go the DIY route, you can either listen and type, or try out one of the various voice-to-text programs like the one embedded in Apple software for Mac users or Dragon or Nuance Dragon if you want to invest in one for future use.
I am old school and a pretty quick typist, so I do my own transcription by replaying the voice files while I type.
Get everything down just the way it was spoken, but feel free to leave out any “ums” “uhs” or “erms” that may be peppered throughout. It’s bad form in speaking and even worse in writing. Powerful writing (and speaking) is clear, clean, and concise.
Step Five: Rewrite and Reorganize
You’re nearly there! Now you have a pre-written piece with which to play. Remember what I said in the first article — that it was much easier to edit your way out of writer’s block? Well, ta-da! You have something to edit. What’s even better, it is already in a conversational format. It will no doubt need some reorganizing and will definitely need rewriting, but you are no longer blocked! No one’s ever complained of editor’s block, so please don’t be the first.
I know people who’ve written entire books this way, successfully!
A NOTE FOR FICTION WRITERS:
This particular tale consisted of almost non-stop dialogue between eight characters. That’s pretty difficult to manage without some of it sounding stilted or the story getting lost. But when I put my characters in an (imaginary) room together and spoke each of their parts out loud, the results were magical! I think it was the best dialogue I’ve ever “written”. I was definitely in the flow and writing the story took about 2/3 less time than usual.
I simply recorded my characters’ interaction as I went through it aloud, then transcribed the result. Believe it or not, I hardly had to edit this one at all. Now that’s powerful writing!
In all honesty, this doesn’t work for me when I am dealing with the prosaic parts of fiction: settings, descriptions, and such. But I think that’s a “me” thing — others have found great freedom of expression in being able to speak their entire story into existence. Perhaps you’re one of them — try it and see!
See you on the next page!