Leaning into your storytelling voice 

By Sarah Cannata


Finding your storytelling voice isn’t difficult. People overcomplicate things. Your storytelling voice doesn’t need to be discovered. It’s already within you.




Think about a memoir or personal story that had you hooked. What was it about the story that saw you gravitating towards it? Chances are, it was because it was relatable to you. 


Unique ideas


There aren’t too many (if any) unique ideas out there these days. What makes your story unique is that you are the person telling it. That is something no one else can do. People want you to give them an insight into your experiences. To see the world through your lens.


So, how do you tell your personal story with ease and authenticity? 


Consider your purpose and intent for writing your story


Before you begin writing, consider if you are writing your story for personal reasons or if you intend for your book to be available to the public. Not everyone wants to transform their story into a memoir and let the world in. 


For the women I work with, their motivation is often to reflect on their past to gain a better insight into who they are. Additionally, many people value having a treasured keepsake to pass down to future generations. As they say, there is nothing like lived experience and you’d be surprised at how little your loved ones may know about your past. So much of our lives aren’t typically what we consider ‘dinnertime conversation’ material. 


Write like you talk


If I need to whip out a dictionary to check the meaning of each word in a sentence, something’s not right. It’s incredibly disruptive and chances are, people will simply stop reading. Keeping language simple and straightforward is best.


People are reading your book for an insight into your world. That means they want to read how something sounded, how it looked and ultimately, what happened, through your eyes. In your own words. 


Read your writing back and out loud to yourself. Do the sentences sound like they’ve come out of your mouth? If not, rewrite them.


Don’t try too hard


People spend so much time staring at a blank page and often, they give up. Why? They are overthinking their writing! Overthinking the mechanics of writing. It’s that pesky inner voice that whispers:


Who am I to be writing my story? I’m a bad writer. What if no one is interested in my story? My grammar is shocking.


Stop holding yourself back. Be yourself, let go and allow the words to flow. As they say, you can’t edit a blank page so you have to start somewhere.


Avoid editing back your ‘voice-isms’


I see this all the time when people seek out editors to polish their manuscript. Certain editors change copy simply because ‘it’s not the way they would write a sentence.’ In my view, this knocks out the author’s voice. I’ve heard so many horror stories from writers who say to me, “My book doesn’t even feel like my book anymore.” 


If you already have a manuscript and you’re keen to tidy it up, be clear with the editor in terms of your needs. A proofread versus a developmental edit are two different things.


Remember, your audience haven’t lived your life


You need to paint the picture for your audience and recreate your world for them. The person reading your book hasn’t lived your life so avoid making assumptions. 


Ask yourself, “If I hadn’t lived through this experience, would this description make sense to me?”


Writing your personal story is no easy feat. You can feel like you are reliving experiences all over again, especially the more challenging incidents. If you feel triggered or need support at any point, reach out to a professional.



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