Dictionary.com has no specific definition of voice that relates to writing, but the one that comes closest is as follows: a range of such sounds distinctive to one person. In other words, your voice is that thing that makes you sound, well, like yourself. The classic examples are Janet Evanovich and Stephen King. There's hardly a single sentence in any of their writing that, taken completely out of the context of their books, couldn't be identified as their writing.
So, if voice is what makes you sound uniquely like you, then how do you know what you sound like? Let me tell you how I found my voice (or at least as far as I've found it so far).
- Write in different genres. The first book I wrote was an historical. Then I switched to chick lit. Then young adult. The thing I realized as I did my genre hopping was that: a) the tone of my writing never changed very much, and b) contemporary settings were so much easier to write. My critique partner and I did a workshop once on finding your voice. We did an activity where we passed around pictures we pulled from magazines and asked attendees to write about the scene in that picture in a genre they had never written in before. Let me just say the results were amazing. It gives you some distance from the writing so you can look more objectively at what makes your style unique. Try it and let me know what you come up with.
- Write like you talk. Okay, this might not work for everyone (especially historical authors, and maybe some fantasy/paranormal stuff) but I have definitely found that my writing rhythm is the same as my speaking rhythm. As in--as devoted BuzzReaders might possible have noticed--I like to write with interrupted sentences. Anyone who's ever met me knows that I speak the same way. (Usually with entire paragraphs and/or stories inserted into the middle of a sentence--much to the utter confusion of the listener.)
- Talk to your agent. Or critique partners. Or get feedback from contest judges. I was just talking to my fabu agent yesterday about that historical proposal I've been working on for, oh, millennia. After three rewrites and replottings and re-everthinging, we came to the conclusion that my voice was just not historical. "It seems like you're trying too hard," she said. "Like your trying to force your voice to be historical." Ding, ding, ding. That's a major warning bell. When you get feedback like that--especially from industry professionals who know what they're talking about--it's like a big flashing neon sign pointing to your voice.
[who is thankfully writing this on her good-as-new laptop]
Growing Up Godly, Summer 2008
Dutton Children's Books
what I'm reading ... Spying In High Heels by Gemma Halliday (part of my quest to read as many RITA-nominated books as possible before they are awarded in mid-July)