Every writer has a voice. It’s innate, it’s natural, and it’s unique to every person. Agents and editors are often seeking out narratives driven by a compelling voice. When told this, there are probably a myriad of questions popping up in your mind. What exactly does that mean? Why is your writing voice so important, and how do you find it?
It’s easy for voice to get mixed up with other writing mechanics, and one way to think of voice is as the culmination of all those mechanics. Voice has to do with your perspective, style, diction, and tone. It can be descriptive and poetic or spare and pared back. Authors’ voices can be neutral or feature prominently in the narrative. One way to think of voice is to picture it as a writer’s signature. An even more simplistic way of looking at it is to compare your writing to your speaking voice: inasmuch as you don’t talk like anyone else, you also don’t write like everyone else. Your voice breathes life into your writing and makes it uniquely yours; it’s the distinctive marker of your work that sets it apart from everyone else’s.
As a writer, you automatically have a voice, but in order to use it, you must develop it. It’s best to be honest and keep your tone as natural as possible. When a writer is forcing on a voice, it can be very obvious and pull a reader out of the narrative. Voice can be cultivated naturally simply by writing more. The more you write, the more aware you become of your word choices and the interpretations of the world around you. A lot of this will come from your subconscious. Your own unresolved inner conflicts may, to some extent, drive you to write. You can exercise your voice by allowing yourself the freedom to say things in your own way. Another trick is to use rhythm and vary your sentence length. Such a simple mechanism as sentence length can capture a reader’s attention and create atmosphere.
An author’s voice can change when crossing between genres (or from fiction to nonfiction), but what’s important is that your voice is unmistakably yours. Ultimately it can be difficult to describe voice, as it’s something that is so inseparable from writing. While you can learn many techniques that can influence your voice, it’s not something that you can necessarily control. Your voice comes from within.