Voice, Voice, Voice

Voice.  Yes, I know it's a popular topic and I've talked about it before, but it also seems like one of the hardest things to get our minds around.

Wanting to find a strong/fresh/interesting voice seems to be the A-number-one commonality among agents and editors. It was mentioned at every agent/editor panel I attended at RWA.  However, it also seems to be one of the most elusive things to define.  Even the pros seem to struggle with pinning down a definition when asked--it's one of those things they just know when they read it.

Which, of course, makes us panic because we want everything in our manuscript to be perfect--and dammit, we want to make sure we've nailed voice, too.  But, I'm here to tell you--you already know what a good voice is. Think of any of your favorite authors.  If that author were to write a new book and someone were to give it to you without the author's name on it--would you be able to recognize who had written it?

Yes?  That's voice.  It's how the author tells the story, the word choices, turns of phrase, the humor, the writing style.  It's the personality of the writing.  So, look and see, does your story show that personality?  And is it a personality that will appeal to people?

Voice is the difference between saying:

I can't answer the phone right now, please leave a message.  


"I know how devastated you are to miss me, but leave a message, and I'll try to ease your agony." --Adrian from Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. 

Yes, some of that is character voice (I talked about the difference here), but it's also Richelle Mead's snarky, fun style.

So the key is figuring out what your voice is and making sure it makes it onto the page.  And don't force a voice that isn't yours.  Brenda Chin, the senior editor at Harlequin Blaze, said on a panel that voice can't really be changed--it's too tied to who the author is--but that it can be honed.  And as with most things with writing, the only way to hone it, is to continue to write, write, write.  Your voice will show itself in time.

So do you struggle to find your voice?  How would you define your own voice?  Which author's voice do you admire?