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.

9 comments

  1. I don't really think about it. I just write. :)

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  2. Yeah, I don't think you can change the voice you naturally write in, and you can't overthink it. Just trust it will develop and grow with lots of practice.

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  3. Hi Don - I write in a strange way - yet I seem to be lucky it seems to work ... now when I need to write in a more normal manner I find myself stumped sometimes and really struggling .. but finding your voice is essential I agree .. cheers Hilary

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    1. Ack, blogger just deleted my 'voice'. I hate when that happens. I think your writing voice definitely needs to be unique, but so do the voices of your characters. My current WIP is told from the POV of various characters, well mostly two, but it's difficult to keep their voices in my head and make them distinctive. I have to be constantly aware and yet not overthink it.

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  4. I always think that describing the voice of the things you are reading, or the authors you most enjoy is Valuable.

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  5. Hi there! Traveling through on the A to Z Challenge. Hadn't really thought about the voice of the author before & very interesting to learn that this could be the make or break of having a book published. Have a good weekend :) Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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  6. Yeah, this is one of the things that can drive you crazy when you think about it too much, especially in keeping the voice of the author/narrative straight from the voices of the main characters.

    Visit my new author blog at http://chriskelworth.com/blog/

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  7. I used to worry about this a lot, but recently I decided to let it go. I'm finally learning the more I write, the more my voice will shine through. The key, as always, is to write. Great post! :)

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  8. This is the one thing that I've always wondered about... how will I know I've found my writing voice?
    Can a writer "know" his/her writing voice?
    Or is it up to others to tell us that the voice is getting stronger/better?
    Well, I'll just continue writing and I'm sure it will all come together at some point...
    Writer In Transit

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