I know I don't usually talk about craft here on the blog, but a couple of things have happened recently and I thought this might be a good place to talk about it. First, last week in NYC I did a workshop with Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson and our own Andrea Laurence on voice. And second, I'm in the middle of judging some contest entries.
I don't know how many times I've heard or seen an editor say the most important thing they look for in a submission is voice. Plot, characterization, grammar - all of these things can be taught, but for the most part voice is something you have to find within yourself.
It's who you are - as a person and as a writer. It's the decisions you make as you tell the story. What scenes you write, what reactions your characters have, what conflicts you gravitate towards, what overarching themes you tend to use. It's the personal experiences you draw from when you're writing. The situations you remember when you're trying to invoke a certain emotion in a scene.
It's what makes your writing stand out!
Everyone is different. Everyone's writing voice is different. The best way to find and hone your voice? Write. And write some more. You can't figure out what you're good at unless you experiment and try something new. I started out writing romantic suspense but after several books realized that I naturally gravitate towards emotional, dramatic and sensual stories. Even if I hadn't set out to write a book with those specific qualities, I always found myself throwing them in. I just can't write a light and fun book...I can't help but sprinkle in emotional angst even if I'm not supposed to. It makes no sense to fight my natural inclinations. It's who I am and where I'm strongest.
As a writer, have you found your own voice? If you have, share it with us. As a reader, can you hear an individual writer's voice when you read? Can you pick up a book and just by reading the first few pages know who wrote that book?