Stop for a moment. Listen to some conversation around you. Does it sound at all like how you write?
The odds are, it probably doesn’t.
This is totally normal. But if you want to be a good storyteller, then you have to find a happy medium between what you say and what you pen. And there are four big rules for doing this.
1. Get your thoughts out of your mouth.
This might mean that you use Google’s voice typing feature or that you use the voice recorder on your smartphone to record what you say in a conversation. But getting this initial record provides a good outline of your key ideas where you aren’t worried about technicalities. Go back and pull verbatim into a draft knowing with confidence that what you pull is going to sound conversational overall. Remember, your first instinct about how to say something often will be right, even if you adjust a little afterward for clarity, redundancy and formatting.
2. Decide which rules are nonsense.
Ending sentences with prepositions? Starting one with a conjunction? Paragraphs having 3 to 5 sentences?
All of these are elements you could be stringent about. But part of the reason oral language sounds different is because we ditch these stipulations in practice. So even if you know what the rules are, pick a select few that you consciously can do away with. Ask yourself if the text as constructed flows. Resist the urge to “fix” it or rephrase just to follow the rule. The rules you accept or loosen will have a direct influence on your personal writing voice.
3. Expose yourself to less formal writings.
Diaries, social media posts, blogs and even to do lists usually don’t go through strict editing. They might not be intended to do anything but help a person remember a moment in time or feeling they were having. Reading these gives you repeated exposure to more honest and individual ways of verbalizing life and concepts. That exposure normalizes the idea that effective writing can take many different forms and doesn’t have to follow a script. It gets you comfortable with the notion that your writing can be all its own.
4. Keep it simple.
Writers often can get bogged down in details and their own love of writing. As a result, they write too much and extend their ideas far more than they would when having a two-way conversation. Imagine that someone else is waiting to comment and cut the fluff that disrespects their time and right to respond.
Writing conversationally requires you to think less of technicalities and more about the flow and comprehension of the text. Simplicity, starting with a verbalized form of what you want to say, setting your own ground rules and exposing yourself to many forms of informal content can help you find the happy medium you’re looking for.