What do you mean “Find Your Voice?”

Fiction writers
are told to find their voice. Well, what is voice, and for that matter, how do
you find it?
I mastered the
mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay
with me here … the rules. Then, I began to understand when and how to break
them to turn my manuscript into a symphony or a dance of words.
About that same
time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first
chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I
mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.
Okay, I’m being
silly and probably not that funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth,
I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking
for yours.
In Edgerton’s
book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or
at least before you began to write. There was your voice.
As I thought
about that, I remembered how our friends always told me they loved my Christmas
letters. Mine were the ones they actually read and looked forward to. When I
was late with it one year, I received a few “Where is it?” emails.
Instead of a
travelogue or a report on the kiddos’ doings, I made up stories about the major
events of the past year, poking fun at us and liberally adding embellishments.
I pulled out
those past Christmas letters and studied them. I noticed the cadence, the
style, and the sound of them. That’s what I wanted to get in my fiction.
I then tried a
new game of “Name that Author.”
First, I went to
a multi-author blog—it doesn’t work on any other type. (NOTE: This needs to be
a blog of authors well known to you.) I chose Girls Write Out. Before I
looked at the signature or by-line, I tried to guess who wrote it. 
Between the post
and their fiction, I could see the similarity in the “voice.” It was
natural and organic to the author. While some may have similarities, especially
if they write in the same genre, each author does have a unique voice.
If you’re still
developing your voice, read … a lot. Don’t copy another writer, but rather
study what they do and how they do it. Then look at
something you wrote before you started perusing a writing career. Forget the
mechanics for a moment. What did the writing sound like? That’s most likely your voice.
Try it for a
while and see what happens.