There were a few good questions asked about voice on Monday's post, but my answers were too long to make in comments, so I thought I'd give them the proper attention today.
Kelly Bryson asked: Sooo, what's the difference between the writer's voice and the character's voice?
To me, writer's voice is the overall feel of the narrative, while the character's voice is, well, the character's personality, etc.
This is much easier to see in a book written in third person. Take The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman or Lips Touch by Laini Taylor (one of my favorites last year). Both these books have a strong narrating voice that isn't necessarily the character's voice. I call both these writers Master Storytellers, because it's their voice that draws me in.
It's harder to pinpoint the differences in first person books, since the main character is the one who's essentially telling the story. But the writer's voice it's still there, and if you read several different books by one author you'll see it. Take Sarah Dessen, for example. She writes first person but doesn't write series—all her books have a "feel" to them that comes from her voice. I've written, um, like 7-8 projects in first person, and in every one my voice/style is still there.
No matter if in third or first person, our characters will still be translated through our unique lens. Our voice. I've read a lot of my friends' works, of course, and I know what to expect from each of them. And what's cool? They most always deliver (I smack them if they don't). Kiersten is always witty and fast-paced. Carrie is consistently ridiculous in the best way possible. Steph is a pro at simultaneously making my heart ache and flutter. Kasie never fails to make me smile the whole way through. In "darker" work or tense situations, in a myriad of character voices, whatever—their voices shine through.
Is it possible to know an author's voice in just one book? I can recognize Kate Dicamillo. Is voice just the things that make you go 'this sounds just like...'?
I think it's possible to know an author's voice on the first page, even. And it should be there from line one until the end. Voice is kind of like your brand. Sure, not everyone will like it, but those who LOVE it will expect it and crave it and be angry when they don't get it.
L.T. Elliot asked: Do you feel like you can have a different "voice" for different projects, though? I have two VERY different stories (okay, a lot more than two) and the voices are way different. Is that bad?
You might be thinking of character voices, which can be vastly different from book to book. If so—not bad at all! You'd be surprised how much you can stretch your voice and still keep it in tact. My "darkest" book is still soaked with my dry wit and sarcasm. It's like I can't help myself or something.
If you mean that you honestly think that your voice has changed with each project, then I'd say maybe you aren't quite sure of what your voice is yet. And that's okay, too! I wasn't sure of my voice for a long time. Like, years. It wasn't until I began writing a lot that I started to pick it up, which is why I'm a big proponent of free writing.
After having written about five books, I went back one month and read them all back to back. This was one of my biggest lessons in voice. Seeing so much of my writing in one dose, I noticed my tendency to "subtle humor," sparse yet punchy description, plucky characters, etc. I also noticed I struggled with repetition, melodrama, over-tagging, etc.
I would say look at your "very different" works, search for the similarities, and you might be able to nail down some aspects of your voice.