Many years ago, before I was published, I attended some classes at a local adult education college in Leicester. At the time, the classes covered novel writing, writing for radio, short story writing and article writing, but there was only one session on writing for children. How times have changed! But one thing which was mentioned and which comes up from time to time, is that publishers want to read a manuscript where the author has a distinctive 'voice'. They want the reader to be able to pick up a book and say this is by Eva Ibbotson for example, without having to know who the author is. All of those years ago, when first starting out, I understood the concept but wasn't sure how to find my writing voice. In the end it was quite simple - patience and practise.
Maybe some people find their writing voice straight away but for me it has been a twisty road and involved a lot of work along the way. But the more you practise, the better you get to know yourself and the style of writing which you feel comfortable with.
I believe the writing voice emanates from the authentic you. It is all those parts of your personality, some of which the outside world may not see, coming together, and expressing themselves on the page. It shows up as the length of the sentences and chapters, the words chosen, the words rejected, the mood and rhythm of the text. It is in the spaces, the pauses, the full stops. It is ethereal, mysterious, precious. It cannot be forced and whilst imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, trying to emulate someone else will not work. Your writing voice may be shy and need to be coaxed out of you, even rewarded with praise or treats for a passage well written. Developing your own writing voice demands a degree of confidence and a consistency which is not always easy to find when you are at the beginning of a writing career. But it is worth the wait.
Paradoxically, I don't think discovering your voice necessarily makes the writing process any easier. I feel that Last Chance Angel is a good reflection of my writing voice, but it was not an easy book to put together. In fact it was the hardest thing I have written so far. Then there is the question of having different voices if you write different genres. If I write some young fiction my voice will obviously not be the same as for my teenage books.
After many years of writing, I also lost my voice for a time. I am the sort of writer who needs life to be on an even keel and when, a few years ago, several crises occurred, I lost a sense of who I was and, as a result, I definitely lost my writing voice. It took some time to get it back.
I also think that this is a journey without a destination. As you grow, as your writing evolves, so does your voice and that is how it should be. But, at its very core, your writing voice must still reflect the genuine you. Whether you are just starting out or have been writing for a long time, it is important never to forget that.
Thank- you for joining me this week and belated Thanksgiving wishes to my U.S. readers.