Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Comparing Voices & Finding Your Own...

Voice is an important element of writing. It's an indication of your signature style and you hope it will bring readers coming back again and again.

It's the kind of item you can't locate with a sat nav. It would be fantastic if you could, but in my opinion, it's not meant to be easy so it won't ever appear overnight. Voice comes from within, it's your history, it's your personality and you have to be able to harness them so it shows in your writing.

Having said that it makes me realise that voice is the part that makes writing so gut-wrenching. It is the part that can make it so personal. You are putting yourself out there for plaudits or criticism.

So to find voice we need courage. We have to believe our voice is strong enough to be heard in an ever competitive market and not be downhearted when writing is rejected.

My reader's report from the RNA's New Writer's Scheme told me my genre was more within woman's fiction and she gave me four authors as suggested reading. When I read, I often switch genres and never tend to read two from the same genre in a row. I decided to read all four suggested authors back to back. It proved to be an interesting exercise and the books were:

Kissing Mr Wrong by Sarah Duncan
Going Dutch by Katie Fforde
The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
Promises, Promises by Erica James

Four brilliant novels, each very different. In each there were obvious differences: POV, chapter lengths, number of characters, reasons for conflict... I could continue but essentially, despite all being in the same genre, they are all unique novels. It's the clearly developed voice's of these authors that make their work unique.

So how we approach the story, how we structure the story are all part and parcel of our voice and style. But there's more to it than that...

Fashion and style go hand in hand. To be fashionable, you have to have style. The same with writing and voice. To be a good writer, you have to have voice. But it's all very well owning the next biggest thing in fashion, (we'll say a silver foil coat X factor style) but what use is it if you leave it hanging in the wardrobe?

No use... because no one will know you're the next style leader in the fashion world. So - you take it out of the wardrobe, wear it into town but you're kind of embarrassed. You figure you look like a Christmas turkey. In order not to attract too much attention, you keep your shoulders hunched, cover it up as much as possible, hide in the shadows. You've got your big shiny, ahead-of-the-times coat on but only the bus driver notices. Well, that's no good. What you really need to do to get your coat noticed is to wear it with pride. Accessorise it to make it look its best, go places where it will be seen, where heads will turn and where you will also be noticed.

I should probably be shot for comparing voice to a silver coat. Especially in a blog post where I have mentioned such fantastic authors, but it's my way of understanding voice. I think we all have one, but if it's stuck inside (your wardrobe) doing nothing then you need to take it out, accessorise in a way only you can to express yourself in the best way possible. You also need to have the confidence not to worry about people laughing at your coat. Time to find out who you are, what you have to say, then strut your stuff, hold your head high and never look back - even if someone is remarking at your appalling taste in bacofoil.   


  1. What a great comparison, Catherine! I think it describes Voice wonderfully. Well done. xx

  2. Hi Catherine, I found this post interesting. I think that voice comes naturally with time, when we follow our instincts. When I first started writing, I used a lot of flowery words and was trying too hard. After going to writing classes and having my work critiqued, I realised that it was better if I just said it how it was (with a few flowery bits thrown in every now and again!) I suppose that I am the kind of person who says it how it is most of the time so hopefully my writing does reflect me. Thanks, Anita x