A friend of mine, who also happens to be in my critique group, has been asked to be on the judging panel of the Whitney awards. I was thrilled for him, and we were all excited for him because it meant he got a little more exposure to readers.
He was a little daunted by the task of reading the books that have been nominated. I won't tell which category, or his name, because I don't want anyone trying to bribe him or otherwise promote their books. But, he gave us an offer to read the books he is reading so that we can see what we think. So far, we've traded off twice, and I've gotten to read two very different books, both by authors I've read before.
It's made me think of voice. Everyone has a very distinctive way of writing, or a style of writing that is called 'voice.' This is what makes each author different from the other. Some are able to be funny, some bring sympathy, some are mysterious, but whatever the voice, they remain true to that style throughout the book -- that is if they are good at it.
The difficult part, is finding that voice. Feeling out what tone is best, where your individual talent lies. The second difficult part is staying true to that. There are many books that switch points of view, that write in first person all the time, and float randomly through a plot that doesn't go anywhere. I think most of us have read books like that, and we wonder how in the heck they ever got published.
I'm thankful that so far the two books I've read do not suffer from any of those difficulties (though personally, first person is what I do about half the time) but one of them did have a strange way of beginning. I've been told by my critique group that my voice is more true to romance. When I try to write suspense, it doesn't flow as well. Oh well, I like to have both in a story, much of the time. But I also like to try different genre. I find that in a small way, I like fantasy as well. I guess we'll see. So far they like the fantasy novel that they are critiquing for me, maybe because it has romance.
If you haven't decided what voice you have in your writing, now is a good time to decide. What flows most easily from your fingers? How do those characters feel in your head? Read back through what you've written and see if feels right. Have someone else read and give their opinion. Find your voice, and be true to it. It will bring a whole new meaning to your writing.