When I was younger, I discovered romance on the pages of a Danielle Steel's novel and between the sheets of Mills & Boon (Harlequin). When I first dreamed of becoming a published author the stories and novellas that I wrote at 14 reflected the voice of a romance writer.
Then I grew up and life got in the way and I lost my passion for writing.
I was a late comer in discovering Chick-Lit, such as Bridget Jone's Diary. Author's like Marian Keyes and Katie Fforde have become favourites of mine but it wasn't until five years ago did I rediscover my passion for writing. I was studying an A-Level in English Language and we had to pick a text and write it for a different audience, in a different genre, whilst keeping the story and the fundamentals the same. I turned a classic novel in the style of Bridget Jones and what I learned was that I was able to immitate writing very well. Soon after I began my first novel and my "voice" was still as it had ever been. But I wasn't feeling it anymore. My "voice" had evolved into the Chick-Lit, sassy, fun, rom-com style of writing.
Recently, as an unpublished author, I entered Mills & Boon's New Voices competition. I had a great plan for a chick-lit I've been working on over the summer and when I learned that New Voices was coming back this year I thought I'd use it. I made a fundamental mistake. I changed my voice to suit the traditional modern romance series. I should have aimed my entry for the new RIVA series which suits my voice and plot better. Within 24 hours of putting my entry in I regretted it. It wasn't me. It wasn't my voice. I couldn't be 1000% happy with what I'd done because I wasn't true to my voice.
You can mix it up, target a different audience, write in a different genre, have a different purpose for your writing but you have to be true to your voice. Its the most important tool you have.