Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Writers Voice

An article by Kate Rew in Mslexia sent me scuttling off to explore my writing for something that I had not thought about before. 'Find your voice' was Rew's review of a writing holiday (I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky) with the novelist Susan Elderkin and her search for her writer's voice. Deposited on a Greek island she undertakes various exercises to find a voice that was right, and one that encompassed style and genre. I had never thought of this and had blindly pressed on with a confidence in my own voice that I probably had no right to possess.

I once moaned to a friend that I felt I had no style in the clothes department. I have always admired those who could sling on their Marks and Spencers ensembles with a casualness that defied me. Happy to mix an expensive skirt with a jacket from a charity shop, my friend insisted that I did have style, and it was all my own. I could have taken this one of two ways but as Trinny and Susannah have so far failed to turn up on the doorstep, I have stuck to the theory that I do have some sense of style in there somewhere. I also think that I have applied this 'theory' to my writing.

We all have to start somewhere and I have often thought that a useful tool for the fledgling writer would be to take a sneaky peek at the first drafts of our greatest writers. Darley Anderson credits himself with 'finding' Sheila Quigley and cashed in on the story of the grandmother from the Homelands Estate in Sunderland. However, Sheila was like all of us, she went through rejection after rejection and looks back at her early work with a shiver of bad grammar and punctuation. Only when she hit upon the idea for 'Run for Home' did she truly find a style and voice that shouted above others.

In the beginning I remember thinking that I could only write science fantasy as this was where I felt confident and here my voice was strong. Advice, exercise and plodding through some dire creative writing course showed me otherwise. I did have a voice, I could take it wherever it needed to be and sometimes it was a loud, shouty voice that was really rather good.

One of my favourite saying is 'the day you stop learning is the day you start dying' and I take this very seriously. I hope my 'voice' is gaining strength with each new piece I write and that my ignorant beginnings have become part of this long road to where I eventually want to be. And if no one is listening then I will just have to shout a bit louder!


skint writer said...

here's a poem what i wrote on the subject:

Finding a Voice.

They say find your voice,
these esteemed poets.
So I tried.
I looked on top of the linepost
and there it was,
so I thought.
I crawled under the shed
and the worms cried
so I heard.
I wandered into the kitchen,
turned the tap on,
so I drank.
I looked in the attic, the bedroom, the garden
and the outside loo.
I looked in my shoe.
Then I looked in the mirror
and opened my mouth,
and there it was,
I'd swallowed it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure she has a voice that "shouted above others". After reading 'Run For Home' I was left with the distinct feeling that she was trying to be another Martina Cole but without the same sense of character development. Personally I wouldn't bother to read any more of her books if I were paid to read them, that's how much I disliked it.

I really think voice is something that comes naturally and shouldn't really need much working on. Grammar and punctuation, yes. Character development, yes. Emotional punch, yes. Active description (show don't tell), yes. But not voice.

That's my tuppence worth anyhoo.

Unknown said...

Love the poem what you wrote Skint, I'm putting it above my pooter and Sharon, I didn't say that I thought that SQ had a good voice, just a discovered one - I suppose I'm looking for answers really!!

Unknown said...

And Sharon...Emotional punch? Does this come after you have finally managed to find the condoms!

Anonymous said...

You know when people do that ROTFL thing and you know they're not really rolling on the floor laughing? Well I nearly did. I laughed so much I nearly rolled off the bed, which would've been a bugger 'cos I've got my brand new laptop on my lap and it might have hurt itself.

Maxine Clarke said...

I didn't enjoy that Sheila Quigley book and would not read another by her. I agree that it seemed derivative -- and not particularly well-written.

Minx, are you a scientist, then? As you say you are confident about science when you started out writing?

You have a wonderful blog anyway. I love reading it.

As for the clothes, I know what you mean. I have never learnt to be stylish. I don't even know how to wear make-up. I don't own any and would neither have a clue of how to nor the inclination to (waste) spend the time to put it on.

I see people wearing not expensive clothes but so stylishly, and give up. Now I am a lot older than I was when I first had these thoughts, so I suppose I should just not care and carry on wearing trousers and t-shirts purchased in the odd free minute on the next directory online site ;-)

My elder daughter is developing v stylishly (surfer style though she never goes near a surfborad -- Big Wednesday down your way is her fave reatiler), so that will have to do! And it is lovely to look at her.

Unknown said...

Vy are you calling me ze scientist Maxine, ven I am ze viter of ze scientific vantasy. You may calling me ze Dr Vinx iffen you liken!!

We are also keen on Big Wednesday, Thursday and Friday too, cos the weekend is near, but most often (the kids that is) shop at 'Board out of my Brains' or 'Fat Willy's Surf Shack' but I'm not sure what a 'reatiler' is - something to with bathrooms?? Or is it some 'up-country'term that I don't understand being a woollyback an' all.
Dr Minx iz pulling zis leg, no?

Anonymous said...

I personally have read all of Sheila Quigleys books and find them fantastic. Also the true story was that she was not the best speller in the world but by no means the worst and that there was nothing wrong with her grammar at all. Some people have knocked this writer out of pure jelousy,and it shows. As an avid reader of twenty years, these books are as good as and far better than a lot of drivel out there. Her books are peopled by brilliant charectors, they make you cry and laugh,and the stories are brilliant and unput downable.