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Teach Your Writing Voice to Sing via Janalyn Voigt

Teach Your Writing Voice to Sing

Writing is a lot like performing music. I know this because I studied vocal music in college and spent a little time running around stages singing in musical theater and opera productions. While I still sing on occasion, the main advantage I now find in having a musical background is that the techniques I learned also apply to writing.  Not surprisingly, many people describe my writing as “lyrical” or “musical.”

What does that mean exactly, and how can the answer inform your own writing?

First let me say that no one should try to train or clone a writing voice into something it was never meant to be. Some people just naturally write with more rhythm than others. And yet, even if you feel you have a tin ear, you can improve your sentence rhythms.

Staccato is a powerful technique in music where singers punch out notes in a short, choppy rhythm. Similarly, short sentences create intensity in action scenes. But beware! Too much choppiness and your sentence rhythms will sound mechanical, as if written to a metronome.

In music, legato describes smoothly connecting notes, usually during a slower passage. To adopt this technique for writing, use longer, flowing sentences to let the reader savor descriptions, sweet romantic encounters, and other story elements where a slower pace makes sense.

Tempo is the overall pace or speed at which a musical composition should be played. In writing, let the objective of a scene and overall tempo of the story as a whole dictate the pacing in a scene. A suspense novel, for example, will have quicker, more driving pacing than a sweet romance. Suit the length of its sentences to the pacing in each scene. The middle of an action scene is not the best place for longer sentences, for example.

As you practice these techniques, remember to vary your sentences. Musical pieces contain pauses called rests. These are a lot like commas, periods or dashes in sentences. They create anything from a slight hesitation to a jarring stop in the action and can occur close together, farther apart or somewhere between. This prevents the music from falling into monotonous patterns.  Make sure you do the same in your writing.

Does your own background inform your writing in unique ways?

Teach Your Writing Voice to Sing via Janalyn Voigt | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

15 thoughts on “Teach Your Writing Voice to Sing”

  1. I used to be a weaver of textiles and I notice that sometimes my writing is a bit sparse (warp without weft)drags on a bit (threading the warp through heddles) and only really gets going when I start putting the weft across. I also like patchwork and often have to gather up sections of writing to make them into a proper ms. both weaving and patchwork take ages to produce something workable!

  2. Love this post, Janalyn! So many thoughts came to me as I read your writing and music connections. I agree with your statement that”no one should try to train or clone a writing voice into something it was never meant to be.” So true! And that’s why I’m sticking with nonfiction for now! Blessings!

  3. A few years back I decided to take voice lessons. I wanted to find and accept my own voice which helped transfer to an acceptance of my writing voice. I write for children so a sense of the sound of words and phrases and rhythm is very important. My voice lessons gave me new insights.
    On another note, I trained in college in theater, specifically as an actress. As writer I like writing dialogue if I know the characters. It’s fun, but it can get a little weird as I “play” out loud all the parts of a scene I’m writing. Improv is a required training for an actor so if I’m stuck on a character, I sometimes put her in a different situation and see what comes forth. A lot of time that will unstick me.

  4. Janalyn, as a follow musician (I am a music teacher) and writer I appreciate your post. I know all those “rules” for writing and but never thought of them in musical terms. What a great way to tie both of my loves together.

  5. Hi, Janalyn… I, too, am a singer and keyboardist. Whenever I read books–particularly the classics–I listen closely to the melody behind the words. Authors with a musical bent tend to reveal themselves through their word choice, their punctuation and their overall pacing. Brilliant article! Thanks for sharing. Blessings!


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