V is for Voice
What is it -- a writing voice – and how do you establish one that is uniquely your own?
Voice makes your work pop, and if perfected, helps readers recognize the familiarity. You would be able to identify the difference between Tolkien and Hemingway, wouldn’t you? It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author.
That’s all still really nebulous you say…what is an actual writing voice made of? Well, it’s a combination of common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works). One author may have a voice that is light and fast paced while another may have a dark voice. We all experiment with different literary styles and techniques in order to help us better develop our "voice".
If you read many agent submission guidelines, you’ll notice that a “unique voice” is sought after above all else. Is that right or wrong? Forget theme…disregard plot…toss aside fascinating characters…if you have a voice that stands out, you got a shot. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not too far from the truth. In this era where almost anyone can publish a book, and popular trends (i.e. vampires, zombies, angels, etc.) become inundated with new material at a much faster pace, it’s a distinctive voice that will help you be successful.
You know what the really hard part is? It’s making sure your voice comes across in something as artificially constraining as a query letter. I’ve said this many times before…the skillset needed to write a brilliant query letter is totally different than the one to write a book – that’s why so many times our voice gets lost when attempting to compose one. And no, I don’t have the secret for ensuring your voice stands out in a query letter, and if I did it would be a post much longer than could be tolerated during A-Z.
All I can tell you for now…is trust yourself. It may be easier said than done…but that’s all you need sometimes.