Paula’s thoughts about what constitutes a writer’s ‘voice’.
Agents and Editors are often quoted as saying, “I am looking
for authors with a distinctive voice.”
In response, I want to say, “Every author has a distinctive
voice.” At its very basic, a writer’s voice can be simply the writer’s way of
putting words together, the flow of their sentences, and the vocabulary they
use. But it’s more than that. Each of us has a unique personality, which
combined with background, experiences, beliefs, and outlook, can influence how
we write, and give us our distinctive voices.
Authors have ‘voices’ that are as different as musical
instruments – one may be a flute, another a bassoon. Even an individual author
can have several voices – you write a letter to your lawyer in a different
voice from a letter to your lover (at least, I hope you do!). In the same way,
your ‘voice’ in a blog like this is different from your voice in a romance
Would-be writers sometimes ask how they can ‘find’ their
voice, or even how do they know if they’ve found it. Some beginners think they
have to ‘sound’ like a writer, so they may pore through the thesaurus searching
for fancy alternatives for ordinary words, or write long sentences with flowery
descriptions. In doing so, they’re in danger of losing their own natural
I’ve also heard and seen advice about studying other
writers’ styles in order to ‘find’ your own voice, and while I would agree that you can absorb certain things from reading, I would maintain that a writer’s
voice isn’t something that can be learned (or copied) from others; on the
contrary, it’s already there within your writing. I like to think of it as
writing from the heart, from the hidden depths of the inner ‘you’.
In a website about writing for children (Write4kids), I
found this paragraph, which I think applies to all books, not just children’s
The elements of a book
-- the plot, characters, setting, description -- are all important, but alone
they make up the bare bones. With a voice, a book becomes more than words on a
page; it becomes a story. The writer's voice breathes life into a book and
gives it a soul.