What is Writer’s Voice?

(Re-post)

Several people have asked me about “voice” lately. I’ll barely be able to scratch the surface because it’s a big topic, but let’s get started.

What do we mean when we say we’re looking for “new voices”? What do editors mean when they say it’s the writer’s voice that captures them—or doesn’t?

Let’s start by identifying a few things voice isn’t. Voice is not style. It’s not technique. It’s not branding. It’s not a decision to write in first or third person.

So what is it? To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated. Your voice is all about honesty. It’s the unfettered, non-derivative, unique conglomeration of your thoughts, feelings, passions, dreams, beliefs, fears and attitudes, coming through in every word you write.

Voice is all about your originality and having the courage to express it.

Sounds simple, right? Then why is voice so hard? One of the most common problems with fiction by new authors is the lack of a unique voice on the page. How is this possible? You are unique. You can’t help it, you just are. You aren’t exactly like anyone else. How, then, are you failing to express that on the page?

I think it’s because most of us spend our lives presenting to the world anything and everything except who we really are. We present images of who we want to be. We show the world what we want them to see. We expend lots of energy upholding our facades, and in the process, we can lose touch with our true, unique selves. Many of us are afraid of real, total, gut wrenching honesty.

I also think one of our biggest problems is that we’ve been media consumers since the day we were born. When I read fiction that doesn’t have a “voice” that captures me, it usually feels derivative, i.e. similar to other works of fiction rather than striking me as fresh and coming from life. Instead of truly creating stories and characters of your own, you may be unwittingly regurgitating stories and characters you’ve read and seen in thousands of hours of reading and TV/movie watching in your life. This means you are not being your unique self, but a composite of many other selves who are not you. Admittedly, it’s a big hurdle for all of us to overcome.

So how do you find your voice? You can’t learn it. You can’t copy it. Voice isn’t a matter of studying. You have to find it. And the only place to find it is within you. (Yikes, sounds like I’m going New Age here!)

It’s a process of peeling away the layers of your false self, your trying-to-be-something-you’re-not self, your copycat self, your trying-to-sound-a-certain-way self, your spent-my-life-watching-television self. It’s like going to psychotherapy, delving deep and allowing the real you to emerge, only in this case you want it to find its way on to the page.

How, exactly do you do that? Take heart—there are lots of ways to excavate, uncover, discover and develop your writer’s voice (and it doesn’t necessarily involve years of therapy). Don’t you think that will be a terrific topic for another post? Me too.

Today I want YOU to tell me: What are some ways to find your unique writer’s voice?

(c) Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

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Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!

86 Comments

  1. StoryDam Twitter Chat Linky for August 6, 2015 on August 5, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    […] definition of writer’s voice? There’s a *great* post on it here via @RachelleGardner http://rachellegardner.flywheelsites.com/what-is-writers-voice/ […]



  2. M. Stone on April 15, 2015 at 11:45 AM

    Thanks for explaining this so well. I wrote a couple of papers, and my professor’s comment on both said I have a strong “voice”. I didn’t understand at all what he meant until I read your article. To develop “voice”, I think it has to be something you are passionate about. Both of my papers are about a topic that is important to me, and that helps me be more transparent about my feelings.



  3. […] industry insiders have tried to define voice. Here is Rachelle Gardner’s take on the topic. Chuck Wendig tackles it here. Donald Maass takes a swipe […]



  4. Jonel Ebuen on December 14, 2014 at 6:27 AM

    Voice is YOU. You don’t mind about making your editor like your work. For writers, you just relate and connect to those who read your work. Everything about you is shown in every page of your work



  5. Untitled | Crowd Content Resources on June 19, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    […] seasoned writer has, or should have, a writer’s voice that speaks to the reader in a relevant way. Writing an article without a voice is similar to […]



  6. Megan Besing on February 5, 2014 at 8:37 AM

    I finally broke down and googled “unique voice”. So glad I did! Now, I have a beginning knowledge of the huge topic. Thanks. “To me, your writer’s voice is the expression of YOU on the page. It’s that simple—and that complicated.”…..loved that! 🙂



  7. […] ~ Rachelle Gardner (Note: If you want to read more about Rachelle’s perspective on Voice, go here.) Follow You Down forces me to write from that place of courage and honesty. Most of the story […]



  8. […] I have a bad habit of drawing attention away from the action with wonderful (or highly detailed) descriptions of something irrelevant.  It used to be entire pages or paragraphs, now it’s mostly a sentence.  I’ve done it multiple times though.  Once, in trying to demonstrate the passing of time, I wrote two pages that I ended up tossing because it was irrelevant and didn’t move the action forward.  I got so caught up trying to show the passing of time that I forgot that sometimes it’s okay to tell.  Instead of writing about a guy having an event-free walk from one town to another, I should have leaped to the action.  ”Two days passed” or “After two full days of walking” or something along these lines.  But no, I had to write two pages of walking, eating, making camp and internal observation.  Yawn.  For some reason this seems to be my thing; a mistake I am destined to repeat.  The best thing about identifying this mistake is that I can now beware of it.  I am positive it’s made me a better writer, because now I’m not afraid of moving from action to action.  I thought I had to meander, that I was supposed to adhere to someone else’s writing formula.  This particular skill does not belong to me, it isn’t part of my voice. […]



  9. Dee Strange on November 15, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    Thank you for this article. It succinctly describes the spirit of a writer’s voice.



  10. Writing Advice-Voice | Why The Writing Works on November 12, 2013 at 6:13 AM

    […] For more thoughts on voice, check out these blog posts: Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice How Can I Find My Writing Voice? What Is Writer’s Voice? […]



  11. Brian on October 30, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    I am in the last week of a Coursera effective writing course and one of my classmates commented on my last submission that I had a strong and original Voice I was not sure as to the meaning of finding your own Voice or developing your own Voice. Thanks for the explanation. I took the comment as positive feedback and wanted a deeper understanding of Voice.



  12. […] is a writer’s voice, and why should readers care? If we were talking about music, you’d know exactly what I meant – […]



  13. Beth Dotson Brown on September 3, 2013 at 7:42 AM

    Thank you. I’m going to use this in a class I’m teaching. I like to start by giving students options for exploring ideas with quick practice writings. Questions that uncover their passions, beliefs, and everything else that go into voice will be great for this.



  14. […] important for writers to find their voice and apply it to their stories. But first, what is a writer’s voice? It’s a combination of things – syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, […]



  15. Paul Bassett Davies on March 15, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Sometimes trying too hard for a voice can be worse that not having one, for sure. Here is my own take: http://thewritertype.blogspot.com/2011/05/writers-voice-and-how-to-shut-it-up.html



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    I propose not to hold off until you get enough cash to order all you need! You can take the personal loans or just term loan and feel fine



  17. Hemmie on August 5, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >Fantastic post – thanks for the clarity of your words. This was something an agent mentioned to me a few years ago, and as I'm now on my 4th novel, I believe that my own voice is finally shining through.

    For me it has been a case of writing and re-writing plus reading articles & books on the subject



  18. Claude Forthomme on August 4, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    >Wonderful post! It certainly clarified for me the difference between "voice" and style…because when I grew up (a long time ago) writing was all about style and no one ever talked of "voice" (which by the way is an "auditive" concept and not a written, letters-on-the-page, black-and-white concept).

    So when I started out writing (I was 15!) I tried to write stuff along the lines of my favorite writers at the time (my favorites have changed since then): Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Françoise Sagan (yes, my background is French as you may intuit from that list). BTW, of these, only Simone de Beauvoir has passed the test of time (in my humble opinion). And of course, I too have moved on and perhaps acquired my "own style"…Is that the same as "voice"?



  19. Anonymous on August 4, 2010 at 8:47 AM

    >My goodness how perfectly you have told the writer about their voice. I have taught writers about their voice, when it comes to author presentation for 15 years and dramatic changes have occured almost instantly when they hear, listen, are stopped, try again, and over, and perhaps more, to hear what they have written. It is a blessing, I am them, I hear their voice and I can say it is the most rewarding part of my giving help to all writers. They then know their voice, and each is different, but this gift was given to me, and it works. I wish I could reach more to help, to hear – it is all hearing. Thanks, and my writing too – I hear, know, toss it out, or keep it forever. Find me on facebook NancyDenofio@facebook and follow me on twitter, Nancy Denofio. I loved your post. Sincerely Nancy



  20. Harriett Starr on August 3, 2010 at 8:28 AM

    >The more I write, the stronger my voice.



  21. Barbara Baig on August 2, 2010 at 12:58 PM

    >As a long-time writing teacher (and writer), I have a very different view of voice. While I agree with Rachelle that too much exposure to tv and movies is bad for writers, I completely disagree with the "voice comes from being totally honest" approach. Voice, in my view, is not about being more absorbed in your self. It's about two things: your vision of the world (that is, what's outside of you), and your ability to communicate that vision in language. You can find your vision of the world by doing a lot of writing, even more reading–and by thinking about how you see things. You can learn how to use language better by learning as much as you can about diction and syntax. The more you know, the more interesting your vision of the world will be. And the more you learn about the possibilities of writing sentences, the easier it will be for you to communicate your vision.



  22. Katy Kauffman on August 2, 2010 at 9:33 AM

    >This post came at just the right time for me. I'm trying to find the right voice. Hard, but needed. I think it helps to write like no one is watching, but God. What do you sound like? Then write like your family is watching, your friends are watching. Then the world. How does it change? What stays the same?



  23. Deborah on August 2, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    >You have made the difference between style and voice very clear. Thank you – most instructive.



  24. NJS on August 1, 2010 at 10:51 PM

    >Above all, you have to write with passion–passion for the language and for the story or subject. Fear and posturing will just get in your way. As others have said, finding your voice requires a lot practice, which means a lot of writing that may never earn you a penny or even leave your hard drive. Journals are great practice.

    I realize that someone earning a living by writing may not always feel passion for their subject. Sometimes you have to write a piece simply for the paycheck. Just don't let that become the only reason you write.



  25. John Overman on August 1, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    >Actually, much of why I write is because writing allows me to connect with that unique voice you mention. I agree that we can lose our identities to the barrage of media out there. It's complicated. On the one hand, I fully enjoy connecting with ME on the page when I write. On the other hand, I pay a lot of attention to other writers who connect with themselves on their pages. So I guess the trick is to be in the know of your entire genre and remain unique all the while. To what extent can we be both influenced and original? It's quite the conundrum.



  26. Ashley on August 1, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    >Finding your unique voice comes through taking the time to write, write, and write some more. When writing to find your voice, you should probably write in multiple styles (i.e. academic, nonfiction, fiction, etc). Then, you have to take the time to read what you wrote, finding the common "sound" in all of the various writings. This is your voice.



  27. Raymond Parker on August 1, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    >I'm a non-fiction writer, so it should follow that I'm not primarily the creator of fictional characters.

    You are right though — we so often create a false persona rather than chance the vulnerability of revealing ourselves.

    Many of my stories fall in the outdoor adventure genre, where there is a certain history of presenting a stiff-upper lip to one's audience, glossing over weakness and fear.

    I've been trying a different approach lately that attempts to reveal more of what I was really feeling and examining personal struggles that affected my experience.

    Your post is a great reminder to reach for authenticity. Thanks. I look forward to your tips on connecting with the true voice.



  28. megs on August 1, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    >To find my voice, I jump back from my 'professional' writing and focus on my 'personal' writing. Every time I lose sight of my voice, I write and reread journal entries, words that are meant just for me, and they help put me back on track.



  29. Stephanie O. on August 1, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    >A woman in our writing class asked if she had a voice, and if so, what is it? Inevitably, we were all raising our hands, asking the same. It was a lot like getting our fortunes told. We were awed by the fact that so much of our personalities could pop off the page. She likened us all to painters, so if you can find a painter you gravitate toward, you are that much closer to uncovering your voice. It's the picture we create for the reader, the impression we leave. And the flip side of voice, it shows up as weaknesses in our writing. The very thing we are so good at, the thing that comes naturally to us, can bore the reader if it comes on too strong, if there's too much of it. You can't edit voice, or go window shopping for it, but you can change the writing style so that the voice is sprinkled through.



  30. Don Booker on August 1, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    >There's a certain joy in finding a way to use your unique voice in a work of fiction. Trying to create a narrative in a certain genre, play by the rules in terms of adequate structure, while mixing the many other elements that take part in making your story feel real in a fictional world.
    Drafting my first novel, It's What You Leave Behind was the hardest thing I ever worked on in my life. It took a few drafts to find my voice and another couple of drafts to feel deserved of that voice. As I continued working through the drafting process I actually felt comfortable, I was able to detach from the self doubt that does exist among many writers and finish with a voice that may serve me well moving forward.
    I doubt i'll ever write anything as honest again in my life. The post could not have described what that means any better. Those words written are like poetry to many a writers ears and dreams.
    Thanks.



  31. David Amburgey on July 31, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    >Love the blog. I personally think that every writer in the world needs some good dose of looking in the mirror finding who they are before writing. The market is sadly becoming like those "cookie cutter" houses that are seen in many towns. They all look the same and like they were just placed on a sheet, put in the often and baked at 300 degrees for ten minutes.
    I love to read, and if the book is the same as the last book I read, has no depth or more of the same, I won't finish it or even pass it on to someone else. It often winds up a place where it is a tragedy for any good book to be, the trash.
    We need more variety, and since there isn't much in the world that hasn't been written about yet, we need to see that variety in the author's voice. Give us something different, even if it is some of the same. What's different? Why the author, of course. God bless your post; awesome!
    One more thing, quickly – I'm a pastor, so I do tend to ramble – when I write, I don't merely see words of the page and their form, but the vision of the story unfolding in my mind as I write it. When I'm done, I go back and fix the form without erasing the vision. If we describe our mind's view in words, then we have found our voice.

    Thanks again, very inspiring. God bless.



  32. Debbie Maxwell Allen on July 31, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    >Voice is one of those tricky things to describe, but you did a great job. Elizabeth Lyons had a good summary of it in her Manuscript Makeover book.

    One thing that helped me find the voice I didn't know I had was writing in a different tense. When I switched to present tense, what a difference! For other writers, it might be a change of genre that brings out their voice. I think it might be like using a different filter in photography. Sometimes the one you use the least can make the colors pop.



  33. Debbie Maxwell Allen on July 31, 2010 at 5:45 PM

    >Voice is one of those tricky things to describe, but you did a great job. Elizabeth Lyons had a good summary of it in her Manuscript Makeover book.

    One thing that helped me find the voice I didn't know I had was writing in a different tense. When I switched to present tense, what a difference! For other writers, it might be a change of genre that brings out their voice. I think it might be like using a different filter in photography. Sometimes the one you use the least can make the colors pop.



  34. Laura Pauling on July 31, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    >For me, voice comes with writing and writing some more. It's how I as an individual use language, sentence structure, rhythm, syntax…etc. It's how I express my personality. And I do think a writer will know when they find it. My voice is there whether I write dark and serious or light and humorous. And it only comes with time. At least for me. Some people might be lucky enough to have it their first go around.



  35. Julie Hedlund on July 31, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    >Finding your voice means not being scared, and that is something I struggle with every time I sit down to write. That's why every writing session is "voice" practice. Because guess what? Voice changes over time, too, because we change over time.

    Great post!



  36. Anonymous on July 31, 2010 at 1:54 PM

    >I think what Fitzgerald says relating to style can also be applied to voice.

    And not adhering to what he shares is one of the reasons why we have so many cookie-cutter books.

    That, and readers. And publishers. And, oh well.

    Here's the quote:

    "A good style simply doesn’t form unless you absorb half a dozen top-flight authors every year. Or rather it forms but, instead of being a subconscious amalgam of all that you have admired, it is simply a reflection of the last writer you have read, a watered-down journalese."

    Heavy emphasis on top-flight, I'm sure.



  37. Susie Shaw on July 31, 2010 at 1:35 PM

    >This is why i've written 3 manuscripts and am on to the 4th. Not because the others didn't have something to say or weren't good, rather friends have "fought for" my true voice to come not the covered over "teacher" rather the vulnerable, in need "learner." Good luck everyone in submitting to the sanctifying/transformational journey of writing!



  38. error7zero on July 31, 2010 at 1:27 PM

    >You should not have to explain "voice" to writers.



  39. sharmon gazaway on July 31, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    >Voice is one of those things that if I stop to think about it, I'll flip out. I'll get so self-conscious I'll start writing in "See Spot run" sentences. I hold to the wisdom that the more you write the stronger your voice will naturally get; that said, the editing stage of a novel is where you hone and perfect it. I don't consciously think of my voice when I write, I slip under the skin and into the heart and mind of my POV character. It's when I get lazy that I start to write in "my" voice or a movie character's voice–I just constantly ask myself (yeah, sometimes out loud) would my MC say that? That way?

    I highly recommend "Don't Sabotage Your Submission". Chris Roerden tells you exactly how to clear out all the "static" that clutters your voice. Your voice is there; just clear out the debris so it can shine.

    Can't wait for the next post on voice.



  40. Matt on July 31, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    >I think i have my voice, because i was told i have a unique way of writing in my essays at college and my personal statement for university was apparently quite unique. I dont like the constricted way were told to write essays and i deleberately went off on my own way of writing it and in the process made some good points other students hadn't and my tutor didn't really understand, (until i explained it) because it was unexpected.
    It seems to be reflected in the way i structure my songs, confuse then explain. I hope that my voice will show in my writing and what i learn as a student can help with my structure.
    This looks interesting and i will be reading more of your blog when i get the time 🙂



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  42. Bri Clark on July 31, 2010 at 12:10 AM

    >Dear Rachelle,

    This post gave me so much joy. If there is one thing I got down it's me. I've even been dare I say a even a little self absorbed because I am so confident in my identity. Needless to say those comments were evaluated but not damaging. So if I got me down then I should have voice down. There's one step.



  43. Anonymous on July 30, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    >Thanks, Cynthia, for your encouraging comment! Funny how I couldn't recognize hints of my voice until you pointed it out. I did wonder though what you meant by "It will cost you, of course. All good writing does." ?

    Laurie P.



  44. Anna L. Walls on July 30, 2010 at 9:29 PM

    >Long ago, when I was a child, I promised myself I would never lie. Since then, I've kept that promise but I do it in a variety of ways. The most common ways is to either not talk about it or to figure a diplomatic way to tell the truth without hurting feelings. In my writing I do the same. I try to write my story as if I were telling it to a stranger.



  45. Amanda G on July 30, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    >I'm not sure if this is the way to go about it or not, but I don't try to write in "my voice." I try to write in the voice of the character. My first book's protagonists are a single mom in her 20's who grew up with lots of books, and a blue-collar guy in his 30's who hates to read. They don't think the same. Even if they had the same essential thought, the vocabulary would be different. But if I tried to write as myself, their thoughts would be worded the same. (I'm on Book 2's first draft now, and my protagonists are a teen girl and a male English teacher just shy of 40. Also completely different.)

    Obviously, pieces of me will still leak through. I can't get out of my own head, even when in theirs, since their "heads" are all creations of mine. So is this what voice is? The whispers of me that I can't get rid of even if I try? Am I going about it backward to ignore myself and work toward individual character expression?



  46. Julie on July 30, 2010 at 7:19 PM

    >I found your blog from a friend's…..

    What I hear you saying is write your heart, what's inside you, your true authentic self. It's what I love to do. But I couldn't really write that until I began to ask God who I was and listen to what He said. I could not agree more with what you said about the facades. We put on the faces we think others want/expect of us. We wear our masks. Until we really understand grace we will continue to wear what we've always known. Grace takes away shame that takes away the masks.

    Glad I found you today!

    Have a blessed day!



  47. Tahlia on July 30, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    >I agree with Llama Mama. When you write that first draft, just write. Don't worry about the rules or whether it's any good or not, let it pour out of you.

    As Stephen King in his book on writing says (here I go, mentioning it again, then look over it and see what it is you're really writing about, keep that and discard the rest.



  48. nightwriter on July 30, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    >Voice is very important but so is story. I find that many genre books have a similar voice and style–the thriller, the romance, the cozy mystery–and it's often hard to tell them apart. Then again, I don't want an obnoxious or in your face narrarator, especially for first person. So hard to get that balance right between intimate and too much info.



  49. Julie Weathers on July 30, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    >I worked for a horse racing magazine for several years. My editor won awards every year for her editorials and some of her stories.

    A professor in California uses her editorials about horse racing to teach…voice. Her writing is so distinct you can easily pick it out whether she's writing fiction, memoir or non-fiction.

    One of the greatest things about her is when she edits stories for the magazines, she doesn't edit the person's style and voice. We all have a formula we adhere to, but she encourages individuality.



  50. Rita Monette on July 30, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    >I think I find my voice when writing what I know. My characters are drawn from my childhood. When I surround my character with the atmosphere of where and when I grew up, I am there again, emotionally naked, in a place before I was introduced to books, movies, television, and Twitter.



  51. Madison Woods on July 30, 2010 at 4:28 PM

    >There are certain writers I follow on Twitter and their blogs, and their voice even comes through in the comments they make on my blog. I love it when I can recognize the person even when they've chosen to remain 'anonymous'.

    And by the way, you do sound like you're treading on the 'new age' path a bit in this post – but I loved it. Not that I, of all people, would have anything against things new age-y 🙂



  52. Kristin W. on July 30, 2010 at 4:06 PM

    >In addition to writing, I do stand up comedy. Both mediums require learning how to express your own "voice." It's hard not to imitate something that you know is working, or at least "change" it enough to make it yours.

    But, writing from YOUR heart, about YOUR experience, and what YOU know can't be imitated. You can learn to communicate it better by practicing and perfecting the craft of writing, but the voice will ring loud if you stay true to your own point of view.

    And it's double hard because my stand up voice doesn't always translate when "written out" for articles/books, and vice-versa, so the challenge to communicate my "voice" to two different audiences keeps me on my toes. But, I like it that way!



  53. Ida M. Olson on July 30, 2010 at 2:58 PM

    >If I feel like I'm just cranking out words without much feeling, I take a break and type out a story from my childhood.

    When I reach back to the unique events that defined me, my voice comes roaring back. Because I'm already so familiar with what happened, I can use this writing to push my voice to the forefront.

    This allows me to go back to work with my voice all warmed up.



  54. Erin MacPherson on July 30, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    >Hi Rachelle!! It's so much easier for me to find my voice when I'm writing non-fiction than fiction (hence, why I tend to only write non-fiction!). Fiction is so hard because you're making up a story but having to integrate your voice into it. Thanks for another great post!



  55. Lisa on July 30, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    >I read what I've written out loud. If it doesn't sound like the way I talk, I change it. For blogging, this works. I'm not sure with my novel.



  56. Kellye Parish on July 30, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    >Finding your voice is a lot…(a LOT) of really, really, really bad free-writing and first drafts.

    It also means training yourself to see the influence of other writers in your work so you can make your style as cohesive as possible, and also going out of your way to avoid literary cliches.

    We're surrounded by fresh stories and ideas all the time – the trick is to go out on a limb over a "weird" concept rather than taking the easy route, which is re-hashing what others have done before you.



  57. Carrie L. Lewis on July 30, 2010 at 12:38 PM

    >Goodness!

    When my husband and I decided to unplug our TV three or four years ago and stop visiting theaters on a regular basis, I had no idea I was helping my writing. I'm pleased to learn that's exactly what I was doing.

    I haven't given a lot of thought to my voice as an author. The best thing I can recommend for authors looking for their voice is the same thing I tell artist friends who are looking for their style.

    Just keep painting (writing for authors). The more I write and paint, the more clearly my voice and style emerges. It can't help it!

    In short, keep doing what you do the best way you know how to do it and the voice will come.

    Carrie



  58. Kristi Bernard on July 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    >This is a great post with lots to ponder. I think it is hard for me to put my voice into my work because I am so old school I fear new readers will not understand where I am coming from. As writers we are told to write what we know. But how do you manage that if new young readers don't understand where you are coming from?



  59. Elaine AM Smith on July 30, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    >If I sit and stare at the page I get fear. I plan novels at sporting events. Surrounded by electric excitement, I get the depths of emotion.



  60. T. Anne on July 30, 2010 at 11:39 AM

    >I've noticed that I lug around the same feel and tone from manuscript to manuscript. I find the more I write the more I feel I know who I am as a writer.



  61. cah4el on July 30, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    >Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with all of us. I have been hearing about voice since entering the world of blog. I think my voice is quiet, gentle, but audible. My next read through my novel will be focused on listening for my voice.



  62. Jx on July 30, 2010 at 10:16 AM

    >And perhaps that is why, despite the good intentions behind such advice, there can be too much reading. When voracious reading is done to match up to some impressive style or to try out a respected author's voice (Hemingway seems very popular in those respects), a writer may, in Oscar Wilde's words, "[know] the price of everything and the value of nothing".



  63. Cynthia Ruchti on July 30, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    >Rachelle will have incredible insights–she's the queen of brilliant insights! But if I could offer a word of encouragement, Anonymous When you said "I'm always wondering what people will think: will I come across too abrupt or rude or immature or . . . ???" you just tapped into part of your voice! Hoards of readers will identify with a guarded character, guarded language. You can use that to your readers' advantage. It will cost you, of course. All good writing does. 🙂



  64. Anonymous on July 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM

    >Thank you, Rachelle, for another great blog post! Voice is definitely a lack in my writing. As my husband puts it, I am the most guarded person he knows. I find it difficult–even just writing to myself–to let down those barriers and put myself on the page. I'm always wondering what people will think: will I come across too abrupt or rude or immature or . . . ??? I'm trying to get past this fear of opening myself up, so I am looking forward to your post about excavating and developing your writer's voice!

    Laurie P.



  65. Cynthia Ruchti on July 30, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    >Watching "America's Got Talent" teaches me about a writer's voice. At the risk of leaning too hard on the comparison, some artists try to "do" Faith Hill or Michael Jackson or Carole King or James Taylor. Talented as they may be, they don't win the contest because they're mimicking rather than using their own vocal cords (which may well produce a sound like James Taylor) in a unique way. My voice will be cramped and strained if I try to sound like a soprano (ANY soprano). My writing will either put people to sleep or grate on their nerves if I mimic someone else. I like Jane Austen but we already have one of those. So I'll attend to my vocal exercises and let my voice come out. Often it's not so much finding it as it is no longer resisting it. 🙂 My women's fiction–THEY ALMOST ALWAYS COME HOME–is an angst-ridden wilderness adventure. The romantic comedy releasing in Sept–A DOOR COUNTY CHRISTMAS–is a completely different style of story. But I pray readers find the "voice" is the same. Sometimes I sing blues. Sometimes jazz.



  66. Anonymous on July 30, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    >Keep writing and editing, imagining what your characters would say and do. Your voice will come out.



  67. Mesmerix on July 30, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    >What are some ways to find your unique writer's voice?

    Write. Everyday, all the time. Write about the weather, the funny man on the corner, your boss. Write about that idea where people's heads turn into eggplants. Write articles, diaries, fiction, poetry.

    Write, and your voice will find you.



  68. salarsenッ on July 30, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    >I think the visual of peeling those false layers away is a good one. But I believe it's even more than that. During that process, during the peeling and self-discovery we gain courage and self-confidence. This strengthens that voice we're looking for. I'm by no means an expert, but every-so-often I'll find that voice rearing its head through a new character or a paragraph…and it's getting stronger. I believe the voice is an inner connection with the writer's true self. It really is therapy.

    This is really a wonderful post. Thank you.



  69. Katie Ganshert on July 30, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    >I'm still working on finding my voice. I find it occassionally…it pokes out its head and woo-hoo, there is it! Then it disappears for awhile and I'm left scratching my head.

    I think, my biggest hurdle in letting my voice jump onto the page is I get so entrenched in the "rules" of writing and "writing tight" that I lose some of my voice.



  70. Heather Sunseri on July 30, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    >Beautifully stated, Rachelle. I'm starting to 'get' what a writer's voice is. For a while I wasn't sure if I had a unique voice, and, to be honest, I'm not sure I have it everytime I write, still. But I'm starting to notice when others like my writing. As my husband or critique partner read my manuscript, I notice when they love certain chapters or sections of the story and when they don't love certain sections as much. And when I go back through those sections, I realize that those chapters sound like… well, me. This goes for blogging as well. I think the blog posts that are an honest portrayal of me and my passions, I hear my own voice. The trick, now, is to make sure that passion and self comes out in everything I write not just certain sections of it.



  71. Kathleen Overby on July 30, 2010 at 8:33 AM

    >A book that has this quality, is like the true loveliness of an unadorned woman. Her essence,
    instead of the airbrush reveals her.



  72. Sharon A. Lavy on July 30, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    >I highly recommend Les Edgerton's book FINDING YOUR VOICE how to put personality in your writing.

    We need to be ourselves on the page while studying craft.

    I sometimes think writing is a juggling act.



  73. Teenage Bride on July 30, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >I know that I have found my voice when I re-read what I have written and it makes me laugh, cry, or feel some sort of emotion.

    It is hard to do but when you get it right, it is so rewarding.

    Thank you for another great post.



  74. Teenage Bride on July 30, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >I know that I have found my voice when I re-read what I have written and it makes me laugh, cry, or feel some sort of emotion.

    It is hard to do but when you get it right, it is so rewarding.

    Thank you for another great post.



  75. Anonymous on July 30, 2010 at 8:01 AM

    >I get to know my characters for a couple of months until my mind is bursting with them. Then I sit down and write. I don't worry about if I'm doing it right, if I'm breaking rules, etc. Just pure story and characters.

    Then later I go back and think about craft.

    I can't read or watch tv or movies during the months I write because I can't enjoy them until I see what happens next for the characters in my head.

    In the beginning when I knew nothing about craft, I was told by those helping me learn that I had voice and hook down. And that they could see it all taking place in their minds when they read my work.

    I so hope I have voice because there is nothing else I can picture myself doing for the next 20 + years.



  76. Susan Bourgeois on July 30, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    >Rachelle, I know this may sound corny but they say God sends people your way to assist you with your goals in life. In some cases it may be a mentor. I feel you are helping out so many of us with every post you write. You are a blessing for all of us.

    I feel my writing represents my voice in everything I write. My writing is a culmination of the person I've become through decades on this Earth. My writing represents the people I love and the people I have met throughout my life. I take a little bit here and there and make it a part of my stories.

    I am now at the beginning stage of my new book on fiction.

    I only know one way to use my voice when I write and that's to pull down deep from everything I've learned in life through situations I or one of my loved one's have experienced.

    I would like to think I've already peeled away any layers of false self. I'm known for being quite open regarding my strengths (many)LOL as well as my (few) LOL weakenesses. I don't hold much back when it comes to being honest and it shows through in my writing.

    I purposely avoid any strong similarities with anything I've seen on TV or the movies so that there won't be a direction comparison.



  77. Timothy Fish on July 30, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    >The fact is that all writing is a composite of stuff the writer has read or watched before. The thing that makes voice unique is that we each have made different choices about what we read, watch and remember. We all have a somewhat unique voice, but for it to be unique enough to stand out comes from the attitude of the author. If you want a unique voice you’ve got to blow everyone else off and be a nonconformist.



  78. tsc on July 30, 2010 at 6:50 AM

    >I simply need a good first line from which another line will follow, and just keep writing down whatever I've tapped into, until I come to an impasse. Then I go back and rewrite until I find a way through it. Sometimes I have to sleep on it. The main thing is that I'm writing from the subconscious and then thinking through what I'm trying to say. I need to discover what I have to say, rather than writing from the top of my head, which is normally nothing but white noise. I could no more do a book about ideas I am conscious of than flap my arms and fly.



  79. Llama Momma on July 30, 2010 at 6:50 AM

    >Finding my voice as a writer is all about writing that *crappy* first draft that Anne Lamott talks about in "Bird by Bird." The draft that nobody will ever see.

    I write and write, and out it comes. Me. The real me.

    And sometimes — just sometimes — it's not all crap. 🙂



  80. Sy. on July 30, 2010 at 5:24 AM

    >Lose the idea. That is only an uninitiated plan. Become an actor in your own life. Step into the role and relive your own life in character. Step into the role of your character and live every movement every day every event. Step into the character and live every moment voice will appear like magic.
    Its free its on tap and its endless.



  81. Francine on July 30, 2010 at 5:06 AM

    >Hi,

    I love reading your blog because your writing is succint, you sound committed to your profession, and most of all you touch on subjects other lit agents shy away from: the nitty gritty of a lit agent's role as more mediator and not necessarily divine right of placing books with a publisher.

    One can sense your inner passion to assist aspiring writers to learn their craft yet retain individuality, and desire to bring forth "new voices"!

    Hee hee, I've been told I have a "strong" writer voice, which may be good or bad: who knows?



  82. Ellen Brickley on July 30, 2010 at 2:52 AM

    >I think you can uncover your voice with lots of writing, and lots of thinking about what you want to write.

    For instance, I have had a half-idea for a novel in my head for a couple of years now, since a scene in an episode of Torchwood got me thinking. And although I haven't started writing it yet, it has helped me refine my voice. When I think about what I want to do with that idea, how I want the main character to be, that's helping me to figure out what I really, really want to say. And because I haven't started the actual writing yet, it's still unpolluted by the 'What-will-my-dream-agent-think-of-this-scene?' type of woes.

    So write, think and watch Torchwood :p



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  84. Katherine Jenkins on July 30, 2010 at 1:54 AM

    >All I can say, Rachelle, is that I FELT your voice in this post. Absolutely beautiful words here. You are so right. My book was sold on my voice. I don't think I am am amazingly skilled writer with perfect grammar, but I do have a voice and it's a pretty strong one. I think writers forget how important it is to have this come through. A voice is often more important than anything else because it is so rare. Thanks for sharing!!!!