This is so important when trying to establish yourself as an author. You want to be unique, yet stick to the style that you know best. Don’t roll your eyes, but Jane Austen is one of the best examples of an author who has maintained and flourished with a unique voice. I think you should give her more credit than our reading culture does today. She’s more than just lovey-dovey stories! She was known for her clever little quips, unlikely love stories, and her piercing commentaries on the society that surrounded her. I think we can all agree she is unique.
Just try to write a story using the same voice as the author you are reading right now. It will sound artificial, because it’s not you. You can use bits and pieces of other people’s voice, like the way they describe certain things, their humor or wit, or even the way their characters interact, but you need to, and always will, make something different from anything else. Don’t be afraid of that. In a literary world that is filling fast, different is good. And you need to give readers credit for seeing through a text that is not genuine. If you are imitating a writing style just because it is the current best seller, it won’t be genuine. The reason readers keep picking up new books is to read something that is fresh and new.
Some may not like it, just as some people don’t like Jane Austen (though I won’t get into the reasons why I think she deserves much more credit as an author here and now), but if someone doesn’t like your voice, it is highly likely that a different reader will (just as I love Jane!).
I recently read a novel where the first eleven chapters were written by Jane Austen, and the rest of the story was completed by ‘another woman’. It is called Sandition, and is a perfect example of how it is so important to have a unique voice. By the end of the story, I knew that it was no longer Austen that was writing. Her writing cannot be matched. This other author, who remains anonymous, did a great job, and obviously studied how Austen wrote, but the little remarks she made and the plot twists seemed forced. She was taking her own ideas and forcing them into the ‘Jane Austen formula’. Only Austen can do that. As a reader, I could tell.
Two authors completing one story. The first author was right in her wheel house with where the story was going. An Austen fan could tell in the beginning exactly where the story was going to end up. I think that Jane herself might have been surprised at how it all turned out. This example would be a great study of how close one can come to imitating a voice without quite achieving the goal. The contributing author herself offers and apology at the end of the book, stating that she could never create the well-rounded and sharp tounged story that only Austen was capable of. This author knew this to be true; every author brings their own voice to their work. Just like finger prints, no two voices can ever be the exact same. Relish that. Take pride in that.
You are stifling your own creativity by trying to copy someone else’s voice. Give yourself some credit. You know how to write, you can create texts that are worth reading. The only way to succeed is to stand out, and to stand out, you have to bring something that is fresh. Only you can provide the voice that we’ve all been waiting for.