Authors, Writers or Artists, however you try to label yourself, hear ad nauseam “You must find your voice.”
Most of us aren’t sure what this really means until we have been writing for a little while. This nebulous advice includes the subtext favorites like “Write what you know” and “Show, don’t tell.” Wrapped together in the “here’s your present” red bow, you find yourself with more of a bomb than a gift.
Musically we know what this means. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. Those are nice labels for the range certain singers exhibit. Clean, right?
Artists can be a little more spread out. We have time periods, types of paintings, color’s, and mediums. Do they paint? Carve wood? Still, there are definite label’s to be adhered to, or in the cases of the avant-garde, created for Art.
Writers are told to find it themselves. People say things like, “Well, the writer’s voice is you. Just write it.”
The first time I heard this, I wanted to scream with frustration. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Wikipedia says: The writer's voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works).
You will hear words like Individual, Unique, Style, Originality.
Basically, you will want to stomp your feet, and throw a temper tantrum.
Instead, grab some of favorite books off the shelf. Now, without opening them, tell me about the author in one sentence.
Here are some examples from my own kindle bookshelf.
- Julie Garwood “The Bride”- Funny and lyrical with historical flair.
- Celia Kyle “Lion’s Honor”-Sexy Sarcasm
- J.D. Robb “Glory in Death”-Mysterious seriousness with a dash of sexy
- Anne Bishop “Written in Red”-Dark fantasy
I know what to expect when I pick up a book from these authors. Julie Garwood’s historicals all hit me in the same spot. When I am in the mood for swords and skirts, she’s a go to. Celia Kyle makes me giggle. J.D. Robb delivers murder in a futuristic world and sexy Roarke. Anne Bishop envelops me in rich world building with a streak of dark. I can pick up any book with their name on it, and I know I am probably going to enjoy it.
That’s voice. That’s brand. That’s what editors, agents and readers are looking for.
The “You” in the mix means who you are and what you bring to the table is the most important part of your writing. Great you have a scintillating plot. Fabulous, your hero drops sexy like no one else. Your book even has super grammar, word choice and doesn’t use comic sans for a font. Wahoo!
Without the “You”, nothing else will really matter. Those authors who float to the top have a value add. Even bad books can be fun to read if the author has presence, gravitas, VOICE.
If you aren’t sure what your voice might be, and let’s be honest most of us take a little while to get there, ask five people who know you who they think you are. You’ll get a mixed bag, but I think you will hear of the same things over and over.
In my case, I hear the word organized, sarcastic, anxious and a doer. If asked, I can organize anything with lots of sarcasm while filled with anxiety about whether I am doing the job right. There is me in a nutshell.
This all comes out in my writing. Most of my writing is highly organized. I don’t lose details, although I really do forget names all the time (I have a file to keep track!) Either my hero or heroine will be sarcastic with the other probably being anxious. I am doing the writing. See?
So I hope in the end, readers, friends and professions see me in the same way. Being authentic to who you are means you don’t put a new face on for different groups of people.
You have to be real in your writing, or you are just fooling around on yourself. If you try to emulate someone else, you are just hiding who you are from your readers. If you make up what you think a writer should sound like, you will fail to bring validity to your writing. If you fake it hoping to make it, you will write a whole book and wonder why it doesn’t work.
So the answer really is YOU.