For the past two days, I’ve been researching agents. It doesn’t seem to matter if they want just a query letter, ten sample pages or a whopping 50 pages, when asked what they want in a manuscript, they all give the same answer. Voice. Some want a unique voice. Some look for compelling voice. Others are seeking the believable voice.
Not sure you’ve got it? Here are five tips to help develop your author’s voice.
Your voice is all about how you sound. When we start writing, most of us don’t have the confidence to sound like ourselves so…
TIP #1. Listen to other writers. What makes a book by Sophie Kinsella’s voice different David Baldacci’s or Suzanne Brockman’s? To find out, listen to audio clips of these or your favorite authors. Don’t just read their work, listen carefully because next you need to attempt…
TIP #2. Think about what make each one sound unique. Baldacci loves his tech terms and his brand names. He never fails to mention the make and model of a car, gun or computer. He uses a lot of dramatic high impact verbs. Even if his character is walking down the sidewalk, he strides. Kinsella writers rom coms so her dramatic vocabulary is more melodramatic, fraught, and emotional. Things tend to feel a bit swoony.
TIP #3. Now describe the voices of your favorite authors. Perhaps one sounds sincere and sentimental while another sounds brash and confident. Don’t go with someone else’s description because you might not agree. I once checked out an audiobook that included cover copy describing the author as humble and genuine. I listened to the first five minutes of the book and cringed at his arrogant tone. But even I understand that “arrogant ass” wouldn’t sell many books.
TIP #4. Describe your own voice. This isn’t always easy and you may have to ask a writing friend for help. My son says that I sound like a well-educated pirate. I wasn’t sure what he meant so I asked a critique partner. She said, “Cheeky with a good vocabulary.” In all truth, I could immediately see what she meant. If you can’t describe your voice and you can’t hear what your writing friends hear, don’t despair. It is time for…
TIP #5. Keep writing! You are going to have to clock a lot of writing hours to develop your own voice. In part, this is because it won’t show up consistently until you develop a certain confidence. Even then, it may occasionally waiver. When it does, relax, open a blank screen and try again.
You are the only one who can sound just like you.
Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers. To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.
Sue is also the instructor for Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 6th, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 6, 2010).