What is an author voice? How do you develop one? How will you know when you have one?
I can hear the panic in your voice already. You’re thinking about how you have to learn how to write well and edit well and find a publisher and promote your book once it’s published and promote your author brand in the meantime; and now you have to develop an author voice as well? Isn't that just how you write?
Yes, it is. But you want that voice to be distinctively you. You don't want to sound like Stephen King when you write scary scenes, and James Patterson when you write actions scenes, and Diane Steele when you write romance scenes. You want to sound like you all the time. Someone should be able to read your work and know you wrote it without having to look at the author. The problem is you probably aren't even aware of how your writing reads to an audience. It all sounds like you in your head.
First of all do not freak out if someone tells you that your writing sounds like another author’s, especially if you are just starting out. It is normal, and good practice, to imitate great writers and writers that you like. Just like when learning to paint or sketch or sculpt you mimic the greats at first, and then you develop your own style.
The key isn't learning to write like other great writers, it is learning to write like other great writers and then learn why their writing is good. What techniques did they use, how did they structure their writing, why did that sentence just fee right? This is the point of imitating the greats; to learn the tricks of the trade and then implement them in your own writing.
This takes practice, and like I said you will sound like other writers at first. But the more comfortable you become with the tools that you learn and the more you write your own stuff without looking at how someone else did it, the better and clearer your own author voice will become.
This is why having a few trusted people read your work is so important. As you grow as a writer, and the more you write, you want the same people to read your work so that they can tell you if you are improving. They will see your author voice evolve over time and they will be able to tell you if you are getting better, and maybe when you need some more work.
A good test would be to have your readers read several things, one that you wrote, and several that others did. Ask them if they can tell which one is your work. If they can, you know you are the right track to honing your author voice. If they can't, then ask them why.
Ask them how what they read is different from your other work. Tell them which one was yours and ask how the new piece varies from your older ones. It may be that you have started to pull away from copying other styles and found your own. It may be that you still need to work on using the tools that you have learned instead of copying how someone else used them.
Becoming a great writer isn't something that happens quickly or with the completion of a course or degree. It is something that happens over time with practice and trying new things. Writing is an art, and like any other form of art it takes years to discover and hone.
How are you working to define your author voice? Share it with us in the comments section below.