When writers talk about voice, are we referring to the voices of our characters, of our narrator, or the voice inherent in our exposition? Yes, yes, and yes.
It’s in there
Your voice is found in every word you write. Your voice is unique whether you’re writing a romance, a young adult novel, even a nonfiction book. When you write with confidence, using your best instincts, your one-of-a-kind voice naturally emerges.
Your voice springs from deep inside. If you are true to yourself and don’t imitate some other writer, you’ll find your authentic voice. Allow yourself to be unique!
It’s the way you say it
In Jane Smiley’s 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, she refers to voice as diction—and I like that:
“Even in a sentence or two, the reader apprehends not only what the author is thinking of, but also how he or she thinks—with hesitations and qualifications, sharply and straightforwardly, conversationally, contemplatively. Each author’s diction is characteristic, and so is his or her sense of rhythm and directness. His or her mental life, at least with regard to that particular subject, is more and more perfectly expressed by the style he or she uses. He is artful; he chooses; he manipulates; he decides; he judges every word and sound pattern and character detail and twist in the action, and yet every one of these things is automatic, given, natural, right. The mind writing is no longer made of parts—the conscious and the subconscious, the voluntary and the involuntary; it is rather one integrated whole, focused and choosing, from all the words in the language, the single perfect one. And the closer the author comes to his or her true stylistic self, the more distinct he becomes from every other writer who has ever written and the more precious he becomes to the reader.”
Your writing voice may be hard for you to define because it is everything about you—the words you choose, the metaphors you employ, the rhythm, the cadence, the resonance. As Jane Smiley says, the more you relax and let yourself be yourself, the stronger your voice will become.
So write on and don’t worry about your voice—it’ll be there.