According to The Free Dictionary, voice means “The distinctive style or manner of expression of an author or of a character in a book.”
Our voice is a reflection of who we are. It develops from our unique experiences and expresses our feelings and beliefs. The choices we make regarding the topics we cover, the themes we focus on, the details we include, the sentence structure and vocabulary we use, and the tone of what we write are all part of what makes ours sound different from everyone else’s writing.
Even though we each have a unique voice, it isn’t easy to let it show in what we write. Here are a few tips to help you develop the voice that reflects “you” on the page:
1. Practice writing without self-editing. Don’t worry about how it sounds; just write freely and save the editing for later.
2. Analyze what you’ve written to see where you may need to improve, but also recognize your strengths. Try to do better in all those areas.
3. Think about who you are writing for, and whether or not your writing fulfills the purpose you intend. Determine what you might do differently to communicate more effectively.
4. Write like you’re speaking to a friend. You’re most likely to write honestly if you’re comfortable with who you’re addressing.
5. Consider the experiences your characters would have had, and imagine yourself in their place. Write from their perspective rather than your own to keep all the characters from sounding the same.
6. Read a wide variety of books, not just ones you know you’ll enjoy. Think about what those authors did, how they sound, and the style they used. Practice writing like authors you admire to get a feel for what they’ve done, and apply what you learn to your own writing.
EDIT JULY 6, 2010: Agent Chip MacGregor has a great post on his blog about the meaning of “voice.” Check it out here.
Do you have a distinctive voice? What makes it unique? Are there any authors whose writing you recognize even when their name isn’t mentioned? What are some other ways to develop “voice?”