What is Author Voice and How Do You Develop It?

I’m guest blogging for myself today. Isn’t modern technology great!

I was so encouraged by Katheryn Maddox Haddad’s guest post this past Wednesday that when I came across my post on author voice from March 2011, I had to present it again. Why? Because I’ve been on a quest, too. Not for as long as Katheryn, but still a quest.

And I know that if I have questions about something, others do, too.

So here’s a refurbished, pre-loved post.

What is Author Voice?

image of cats looking into tuba

A writer’s voice and an artist’s style are very close to the same thing.

An artist doesn’t usually set out to develop a certain style, it just happens. It arises out of the things an artist likes to draw or paint and the way the artist thinks about those things.

Author voice develops the same way. If you write long enough, you will develop author voice.

A Personal Example

I began painting pictures of horses in grade school and sold my first portrait in high school. All I wanted to do was paint and all I wanted to paint was horses. I gave absolutely no thought to style. I didn’t even know what style  was. I just painted horses because that’s what I liked to do.

I didn’t realize I’d developed a style until I missed entering paintings in the county fair one year. After the fair was over, a neighbor asked why I hadn’t entered anything. I asked how she knew I hadn’t entered. Her answer was enlightening.

“I didn’t see anything that was your style.”

How Do You Develop Author Voice?

Your voice as a writer develops over years of writing. It takes shape through completed manuscripts, countless blog posts, and all sorts of other writing. Even the way you journal or write letters contributes to the development of your writing style, aka author voice.

An artist’s painting style is made of color choices, painting techniques, subject selection, rendering, and artistic vision.

A writer’s author voice is made up of word choices, how words are strung together, subject selection, plotting, and artistic vision.

See the similarity?

Some writers and painters DO set out to establish a particular style and that’s okay. If that describes you, more power to you!

But most of us wonder about voice, how to get it, and what we’re doing wrong if we don’t perceive ourselves as having a voice. If you’re one of these people, stop worrying! Just keep on writing and your voice will develop.

I guarantee it. In fact, you won’t be able to prevent your author voice from developing if you write long enough and often enough. Here are a few tips that will help.

A Few Things to Do

Write what you enjoy writing in the manner in which you enjoy writing it. Remember the story of my paintings? It applies to my writing and to yours.

If you already know the genre in which you want to write, push it. Push it hard and push it often.

If you don’t know what genre you prefer, try many until you find one that clicks.

Write happy. If you’re not happy with your writing, chances are no one else will be either. Remember that you don’t write a novel over night. If you’re not engaged enough to stick with it through the long-haul, you’ll never finish it. The same holds true for blogging and short story writing.

Keep writing. Remember, author voice doesn’t develop overnight. It takes time. Sort of like growing an oak tree. It takes years for acorns to become oaks.

A Few Things Not to Do

Don’t copy another author’s style. No matter how much you love, respect, and enjoy the writing style (author voice) of another writer, forget copying it. You can learn from it; there are always things to be learned from the writing of other authors. But don’t copy it. The best you can hope for is to become the second best writer with that style. The original author will always be the best. Instead, be the best you  there is.

Don’t write at all. LOL, I include this as a reminder to myself. You can’t develop an author voice if you don’t write. Yes, it may seem easier to not write and it will definitely be safer to not write, especially if your author voice is not in perfect synch with the market or what you perceive readers to want. But remember Katheryn’s story? Remember how she wrote what she felt compelled to write? You (and I) need to do the same.

When you’re writing, forget the market. Just write. You can always fine tune later and, if you’re true to your author voice, you well hook up with readers who also appreciate that voice. So what if it isn’t a big niche market? It’s a lot easier to start by being a big fish in a little pond than to jump into the deep end where all the really big fish are!

By the way, if you’re writing for the market instead of writing what you care about, your readers will know. Passion attracts passion. If you want devoted readers, be a devoted writer.

Conclusion

Every author needs a voice. The neat thing is that you already have yours. You just need to write long enough and often for that voice to take shape, to develop well enough that other people come to know it when they hear it.

The interesting thing is that you probably won’t be the first one to notice it. Your readers will be.

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