Voice means everything. Voice is what makes my writing different from all others that you read. Give me a topic and you may someday find someone who comes up with the same sentence as me, but it wouldn’t be easy. My life experience, reading, education, and aptitude form my voice. While it will most likely never completely change, it will grow and mature as I write. That is why we improve with each novel, story, poem, song or whatever we write. Your voice will change along with your life.
Take, for example, the title of my post: Who are you and what do you want from me? That is something I want to know, but it isn’t how I would personally ask it. I would say; I would like to know who my readers are and what they would like to see from me? It is the same topic, wrapped in a different package. Though it isn’t only a distinct way of saying things, it is a new perspective in addition to that new way of putting the words to paper. It’s what distinctly makes me who I am both as a person and on paper.
What can you do if you you’re voice isn’t what agents are looking for? As I said, your voice will (most likely) remain similar to what it is now, but there are ways you can improve. You can improve your voice by reading. Read books that challenge you, especially classics. Classic novels seem to force our brains to work harder linguistically. It never hurts to be well-read, either. The other choice is, of course, to take the chance that your voice will be appreciated as-is by the masses and take the self-publishing route.
Another way to improve your voice is through journaling. You can do this in a number of ways, you can journal about your own experiences, paying close attention to the action of everyday life. How could you make your own life interesting enough to keep a reader engaged? Another way is to create an emotion journal. When you experience an emotion, make it a point to write down your exact feelings, your actions, your bodily reactions (heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, tremors, etc.). In this way, when one of your characters experiences that emotion it is as easy as looking in your journal to make the scene come to life.
By developing your voice, encouraging your brain to think expressively, your writing will improve. It isn’t about adding more adjectives. In fact, it is about saying what you can as concisely as possible while still conveying exactly what you mean. Keep writing, follow your path.
I’ve said throughout this short passage that probably your voice won’t change. Sometimes our lives are altered and we are hit with trauma. When that happens, our perspective can change dramatically, and it can change your voice. It has happened where an author begins a series which takes many years to complete whose final books don’t even sound like they were written by the same author at the end of the series. When that happens, people who loved the series from the start may feel indignant at the end, and those who love the later ones probably wonder what happened in the beginning. I wouldn’t wish this type of change on anyone, but it can and does happen.
I have yet to have any comments either positive or negative about my voice so I’d love to hear from you. Have you submitted to anyone or received any comments on your voice?