While the editor was very nice, he basically told me that my writing stunk (my own word), and I needed to keep practicing. The only bit he liked was the part I was considering cutting, and he said it sounded like I just hadn't found my voice yet.
I haven't touched that book since.
Anyway, that was the first I'd heard of "voice." What in the heck is voice? I wondered.
According to About.com "voice is the author's style , the quality that makes his or her writing unique, and which conveys the author's attitude, personality, and character."
At Kim's Corner for Teacher Talk she says: "voice shows the writer's personality. . . . It contains feelings and emotions so that it does not sound like an encyclopedia article."
But see, while good definitions, none of this really helped me "find my voice." I do think that I've learned a bit in the past five years, and so here are some things that I think helped me:
- Don't just read good books, study good writing. Ask yourself why you like it, and listen to the voice.
- Know what point of view (POV) is and how it should be used in writing. I know that may sound obvious, but I look at my first ever book, and cringe at my all-over-the-place POV. I've been re-writing it with a solid POV, and it the change is astounding. (trust me!)
- Write what you enjoy. No . . . more than just enjoy . . . write what you're passionate about. For me, that made the difference. I wrote the book I really wanted to write on a subject I adored.
- Work with a critique group. I can't tell you how many times my amazing group steered my writing to keep my voice on track. "This just doesn't sound like something the character would say," they told me. Or "This is a POV shift." Little things that add up. (Thanks guys!)
- Write. Write. And write. There's nothing quite like practice. We hear this all the time, but how can we expect to be good at something we rarely do? We can't.