Oct 10, 2011

Finding My Voice

Everywhere, you see people talking about an author's "voice." Writing blogs tell you to develop it. Reviewers comment on it. Agents and publishers look for it.

For the longest time, I have to admit I didn't understand voice at all. I thought it was just something to do with writing style and word choice. Finally, however, I get it. It's so much more than just word choice. It's the use of sentence structure, the flow of the language. The way the words feel when you see them or read them aloud.

I've spent several years trying to model myself on specific authors whose books I enjoy, but it's only now that I'm branching out my reading choices that I'm starting to see more variety in voice. As a result, I've learned that the authors I've been trying to model, while excellent, have their own unique voice. I need my own. Not theirs.

My voice isn't about long descriptions or minutae. It's not about a narrator cracking comments to the reader. It's clear, concise, but vivid. My editor tells me I excel at dialogue and action. I was thrilled to hear that. These are the areas for me to focus on, because they're my strengths. The more I write and edit, the more I learn to let go of clunky, repetetive dialogue tags or overly-wordy narration. I want to write the way my voice tells me. Fun, snappy dialogue. Fast-paced adventure. I want to entertain readers with my own unique voice.

I don't have to be like any other author. I can be myself.

What are some authors' voices you've loved? If you're a writer yourself, how did you find your voice, and what is it?


  1. I'm glad you found your voice. I'm sure you know that if a book doesn't have "it," then you don't want to read it. It sounds like your voice definitely has what it takes to grab and keep readers.

    I'm working on a novel and have written a bunch of short stories. The voice that people seem to like best is that of a nine-year-old boy. Not sure what that says about me as a 42 year old woman :) Maybe that I've been around that age group too long!

    But I do like that voice best.

  2. I think it's great that you've found your voice, Paul. I just covered this topic on my blog last week. http://olenequinn.blogspot.com/2011/10/pov-and-narrative-voice.html#comments

    It must be on the collective conscious lately.

  3. hi paul....just catching up on some of your posts as newbie follower....some great food for thought...have to say i always loved the voice of robert harris ( pompeii, imperium,the ghost) and ian mcewan (on chesil beach, atonement, amsterdam). i love the humourous/sarky voice of colin bateman especially in his dan starkey novels.......looking forward to more posts..

  4. I agree, Paul. Being yourself. That's what it's all about for an author. I think it's finding your stories, your personal stories, and then the voice flows. This is how it has been for me. Dialogue is my strength, too. I love dialogue. Done well, it moves the story forward. Dialogue and action: that's the stuff of film writing.

    Excellent post!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

    An excellent post. Thanks!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  5. This is so cool! It's exciting to find your voice. I've done a ton of writing in a stiff, awkward clunky voice-- and the more I wrote the faster I shed that old awkward skin and found the real me.

  6. Halli: Thanks. I think we have to accept our voice when we find it (or when it finds us). Fighting it just keeps us from doing our best.

    Olene: Must be!

    Pete: Thanks! Hope you enjoy the blog.

    Ann: Exactly. I usually picture what I write as a movie when I work. I like to write exciting stuff that keeps the reader gripped.

    KarenG: It really is exciting. I can't wait to find out where this takes me.