Oh gosh, this little word gave me such a nightmare in my first manuscript, when agents kept saying it was so important. It KILLED me.
What makes voice so difficult? Is it because it is so elusive? An inexplicable, "I'll know it when I see it"? Voice is frequently heralded, by agents, as one of the top reasons they turn down manuscripts: the difference between slush and publication.
The best way, I found, to KNOW voice, was to read books that had it. This meant THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (which, I feel, should be the epitome and golden standard in voice. I kept reading because I lovveed the voice), and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (kept reading because it was so addicting). Those are the two main ones I feel really stood out to me in voice. Mostly, anything John Green, like LOOKING FOR ALASKA. But Salinger (THE CATCHER IN THE RYE). Oh my, Salinger. His voice is excellent. So authoritative, so fun, so... addicting! He is THE literary voice.
That is what voice is. It makes your book addicting to read, and readers won't know why they keep reading it. That is why voice is so important. You know how you read some pages for critiquing and you can just tell they sound like they came from a 'real' book? That's voice. Voice is crucial. That scares me too guys, don't worry :) My first MS was a bombshell, partly due to voice (which is why I'm rewriting it later on).
So how do you get voice?
1. Write 1st person. Never an easier way than this, but also dangerous if you do it wrong. Voice is basically all about getting spice in the way you
2. Imagine yourself inside the main character's head. This is basically like the 1st person rule, but just pretend you ARE the main character, and you are telling us everything that is happening from the way they see it. Main thing is, bring some personality into it.
3. Write. Write, write, then write some more. I've realized it is SO much easier to find your literary voice after you've finished your first manuscript, or you've written a lot. Find a voice that fits you. One you are comfortable with. I think JK Rowling said something like you will invariably copy your favorite writers in the beginning, and that is fine. I did that with my first manuscript, and that is why it needs a complete rewrite.
4. Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. (A little Zen there.) Develop your own voice, and perfect it. I honestly don't think anyone will be able to copy Salinger's voice in THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. It is so authentic, and if anyone tries to copy it, it will be so blatantly obvious. It will be futile to try copying someone else. It is your book, in the end. Make it yours.
5. Develop your own style. I read this from somewhere, but the golden standard of voice is where someone can pick up your book, without seeing the author or title, and tell you wrote it.
6. Write in longhand. Kind of an odd one to end this off with, I know, but trust me, IT WORKS! Writing with pen and paper has helped me soooo much in my new WIP. I tried to use the computer but it felt... wrong. Longhand is freeing, and its more passionate than clicking keys. Plus, you don't go back and delete what you just wrote, because line slashes just look bad, so you don't do them too much. Plus, horrible handwriting it's easy to pretend my horrible handwriting does not consist of words, so I don't read and edit it when I don't want to. Thus, my writing is fresher and not sucked dry.
So, if you've been having problem with voice, try some of these tings :) I think even one of them would help tremendously, and try the longhand one :) That worked the best for me. Thank you!
Have you had trouble with voice? What are your methods to achieving it?