The first time I ever heard about “voice” in writing was when I started working on my query letter earlier this year. Voice seemed to frustrate many would-be authors (including myself) because some critiques shot the writer down for not having enough of it; or none at all. How frustrating, right? You set out to write a query meant to impress a would-be literary agent and people nab it for not having voice!
After several months (yes, I meant to write ‘months’) I finally got a query written that got the ‘voice stamp of approval’ when reviewed by fellow aspiring authors. By the end of the process, I gained an awareness of what signified ‘voice’, but it’s still not something I can easily describe.
I recognize voice when I read multiple novels by the same author. I notice their writing style and sentence structure, almost like I can name the singer of a song on the radio. I get a feel for their type of story and on occasion, I can even pick out the ‘formula’ they use for their plots.
All of this got me to thinking about my own voice. I looked through writing samples I did back in college versus what I’ve written recently. Even my writing two years ago is different than what I do now. I think I know why. When I first started writing, I chose a more formal style. I wrote how I thought the professors wanted to see me write. Some of my writing had as much personality as an English 101 essay (ouch).
Even when I started my book a couple years ago, I had Mary Higgins Clark in my mind. I love her suspenseful story-telling. I think my subconscious interfered and directed me to write like her. The problem arose when my own style poked through in places; like when the main character cracked a joke instead of breaking into tears, or the sarcastic conversations with her best friend. It took several revisions for me to take the story back and make it mine.
I’ve accepted that my casual writing style isn’t going to render my novel(s) a classic, but it’s me and the way I’m most comfortable writing. I write my stories and novels like I would write a letter to a friend; not how I think an educated professor of literature would expect a future classic to be written. It may or may not appeal to the masses, but I can only hope that if I am comfortable writing it, then others will be just as at home reading what I’ve written.
Have you noticed an evolution in your own writing? What about your voice – how has it changed (if at all) throughout your writing experience? Please share; I’d love to hear about your own experiences!