Who are you?
The question of voice seems to plague every writer at one time or other. If you have a strong one, readers either love you or hate you. If you don't have a strong enough one, every submission you send out comes back with some weak comment about it.
I've been thinking through this for some time. I critique manuscripts, and I judge quite a few contests, too. One thing that always strikes me when I'm absorbed in a good story or reading a well-written manuscript is how I can almost hear the author telling me the story. Now I want to clarify the "telling" part, because yes, I know the story should be "shown" not told, yet there's more to showing and telling a story than the narrative, action, or dialogue on the page.
I think you'll get what I mean when you pick up a Nora Roberts book and then go to a convention and hear her speak. She's in your head when you're reading one of her books. There's absolutely NO doubt who wrote the book. Her personality comes through on the pages. I've read Harlan Coben and then watched a a few interviews with him. He writes the same way he speaks, and I feel like we've been best buds for years. It's strangely intimate to experience that with a virtual stranger, but you get that opportunity with an author, the chance to feel like you know him/her from the way they tell you a story. That is what we as readers want from our favorite authors--that personal touch, the comfort of knowing they won't disappoint us, the almost knowing what they'll say before they say it--the pace, the rhythm, the tone of the work.
You can depend on them, you can trust them, you can run away with them.
So, how do you develop a voice? To begin, get comfortable in your skin. Everyone says write WHAT you know; I say write WHO you are. Are you snarky, sweet, humorous, flighty, funny, serious, stuffy? Use your strong character traits and fit yourself into your story. Janet Evanovich is also a great example of an author with a strong voice. her characters are varied, but the tone of the books are the same. They are Janet. Your characters will have dialogue and narrative qualities of their own, but the way you tell a story will be purely YOU!
If you need help to find yourself and your voice, write a lot. Write journals, and poems and blogs. I don't necessarily recommend that you show this writing to anyone, but write it just the same. WARNING - Don't edit this writing. Stream of conscious writing is where you'll discover your voice. Yours will be unique to you. If I bump into you somewhere, I should recognize you the minute you open your mouth and say "Hi!" "Hello." "How are yah?"
I'm sure I've missed mentioning something. How about you giving me a hand here and comment? I'm sure you have some thoughts on this subject. Every writer out there has heard about the mysterious "voice". Now lets expose it for what it is..."You!"