You can fly

When I first started writing, I got a lot of feedback about how I write in many different styles. Other writers asked me what voice I was ultimately going to “pick”. I found (and still find) this line of thinking completely bizarre. Partially because I wasn’t consciously choosing to write in different voices, I was experimenting, trying to find the right voice for each story. And partially because I don’t like the sense of finality I get from the question. Settle down. Be serious.

Why?

“Find your voice” is something you hear a lot as a writer. But how do you do that?

By playing.

Writers ought to experiment and try new things. Try to write like Connie Willis. Then try to write like China Mieville. Copy out your favorite short stories so that your hands start to understand the rhythms, the tricks. Figure out what it is you admire most about a particular writer’s style, and shamelessly steal those techniques.

So put Hemingway in a blender with Faulkner and see what you get. Eventually the lumps will get beaten out and something new will emerge. That something new is your voice. Then it won’t matter if you’re writing a baroque romance or a hard-boiled thriller; it will still sound like you, even as you conform to the defining style of the genre you’re working in.

If you keep playing, your voice will continue to mature, to grow richer and more interesting. Your talent will become more flexible, more capable, and more impressive. So don’t ever grow up.

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