Thursday, 4 February 2016

V is for...Voice by Annie Burrows

On the first Friday of every month, Novelista Annie Burrows has been sharing a very personal view of what it is like to be a writer.  And is dealing with themes in alphabetical order.  This month, she's reached V...which she has decided should stand for Voice.

In some ways, this article continues from the one I posted last month, about your Unique Selling Point.  Because your voice is going to be a part of what makes you unique.

Publisher's websites are always saying they are looking for fresh new voices.  But what do they mean by "voice", I've often wondered?  And how am I going to get a fresh new one?

Well, having read a lot of articles about it recently, I've discovered that actually it's quite simple.  My "voice" is simply the thing that makes readers recognize me as the writer.  It is my personality coming through in my writing.

This explains something that happened when I had my first book published.  My husband was rather impressed, and agreed to read it.  Even though it was a historical romance, and had a cover with a picture of a couple in a clinch, he read it during his daily commute to work on the train. (Which earned him lots of brownie points.)

When I asked what he thought of it, he said, in amazement, that it sounded just like me.  Well, of course it sounded like me - I wrote it!  When I asked what he meant, exactly, he explained that the things the heroine said were just the sorts of things he could imagine me saying.
(Which was fine, until a couple of chapters later, he mentioned that he thought the heroine was "a stroppy cow".  Half the brownie points earned for reading my book at all promptly deducted.)

But there you have it.  Your voice is just your personality shining through in your writing.  Your attitudes, your take on life, your values.  And in my case, my tendency to stroppiness (apparently - though I think I'm very easy-going.)

Another thing which helped me understand what a writer's "voice" is, happened during a writer's workshop I held, in the days when I thought that because I'd had a book published, it qualified me to teach writing as well.  I set the students a very simple writing task - to describe their hero.  Every single person in that class came up with a wildly different article.  Not only their heroes were different, but so were the reasons for picking them, and the way they described them.  Each article told me as much about the person who'd written it, as the hero they'd picked.

Every single writer has their own distinct take on the world, because of the way they were brought up, their values, their interests, and so on.  If you were to ask six people in the room where you are now, to describe the room, you'd probably get six wildly different accounts.  Some of the writers would describe the room in detail, right down to the style of architrave round the door.  Others would focus on the other people in the room.  Even the ones who wrote about the other people would each come up with something different.  Some would be more interested in what the others were wearing, some on what they were doing.  Someone might even take the opportunity to have a dig at you for making them do all the work when they'd paid good money to learn how to write.

So, your "voice" is just you.  Your way of putting things.

However, when you first start writing, you will probably emulate writers you admire.  It can take time, and practice, to gain the confidence to just be yourself, to allow your own, unique voice to come through in your writing.

Unless of course you happen to be naturally stroppy and opinionated.

Annie's next book features a heroine who might be considered "stroppy".  Especially when she's confronted by an infuriatingly autocratic hero.

"In Bed With the Duke" is available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released in May 2016.