What do people even mean when they refer to your author voice?
Often, beginning authors receive critiques like: “Once you find your voice, you can start writing better books.” Or “you have to find your voice before you can start a long series.” How is author voice different from character voice?
Character voice is giving each of your main characters an individual, distinctive way of speaking and thinking that makes them stand apart from other characters, and hopefully makes them interesting. But an author’s own voice encompasses all that, rather than simply being another voice. It’s what makes the author’s work uniquely their own, a signature way of putting words together that no one else has. It’s what elevates writing from simply putting together existing things to an art form.
How do you work toward that, how do you find it, how do you know when you’ve found it?
Like any other skill, developing it is a long process of work, practice and feedback. It’s perfectly fine to begin by imitating other writers – their styles, their plotlines, even their characters. You’ll find, as you write story after story, that certain things keep happening, for good or ill. Some of them will be things your beta readers don’t like; some will be qualities unique to your work that people really do like. Take joy in them all. Your flaws as much as your skills will ultimately come together and coalesce into your unique voice.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fix your errors, or listen to critique, or try to improve. But those stubborn things that keep coming back and back just might be part of your individual style, and can be turned to your advantage. Learning to use your flaws as tools, as much as your skills, is a way to find and grow confident in your voice.
How do you know when you’re there? When you no longer have to ask this question, because you’ve been doing this so long you already know the answer.