It took me a long time to find my writer voice. For a long time I wasn't even sure what that meant, then I thought maybe I didn't have one. Then it clicked.
I was writing the umpteenth draft of what eventually became my first novel, The Night Train, when it suddenly dawned on me that all those other drafts had been written by someone (me) trying to adhere to all the so-called rules of writing marketable fiction. I wondered what would happen if I just wrote the way I wanted to, without worrying whether or not anyone else would like it. So I gave it a shot
All those other drafts were missing something. I didn't know what they were missing, but I knew they were missing something very important. It wasn't anything I could put my finger on, either. Just a nagging inner voice telling me they were not what I wanted to create. I knew I could do better even though I never had proven it. I couldn't even explain to myself what it was I wanted to create, but I knew I would recognize it when I saw it. Not being able to close the gap was like hanging over the side of the Grand Canyon.
Like most writers, I wrote a lot of crap. I have files and notebooks with some really bad writing. Writing, like anything else worth doing, takes practice. It takes lots of hours of outputting stuff you hope no one ever stumbles across before you get it right. Never be ashamed of writing badly, just don't show it to anyone.
Find your voice.
How will you know you've found it? For me, it was that moment when writing became comfortable. It was when I gave myself permission to break rules, not because I didn't know better, but because I felt like they were in the way of telling my story.
Don't get me wrong: I want readers to like my writing. I appreciate every review I've ever received. I cherish every encouraging word, every when is your next book coming out, but the single most important thing to me as a writer is being able to read the final draft of my manuscript and say, yes, that's exactly what I was shooting for.
How did you know you had found your voice?