Writers, publishers, agents and readers always go on about having your own, unique voice when you write. It appears to be this elusive, un-pin-downable communication technique where the words you write seem to creatively, wholeheartedly, magically present you on a page (or screen) as well as effortlessly, uniquely and quirkily describing the characters and story you’re telling.
Until March 2012, I thought having an “author’s voice” was, frankly, a load of cobblers.
I sincerely – and stupidly – believed (without sounding too clandestinely paranoid here) that it was some kind of barrier concocted by the media and entertainment industry to make it even harder for a writer to be successful; to make it even more difficult to become who you wanted to be.
I mean, surely, I don’t need a voice! I know what I’m doing! Just hand me over a million pounds because my writing is spectacular, dammit! Can’t you see this? You blind imbeciles! Having an author’s voice is for other [more successful] people!
But oh how wrong I was. Finding your writer’s voice is imperative. It is no pretend, ethereal thing because I can honestly say that, unless you have it, you shouldn’t be sending your work out to agents and publishers. Because you will get, like I did, rejected.
It is a simple fact that, until I DID find my author’s voice in March 2012, all the writing I did up until that point was just practice.
And, since I started writing stories when I was 5-years-old (scribbling in a blue school book, whilst wearing my brown NHS specs and brushing aside the terrible basin haircut my mum cut for me using a bowl on my head…a haircut that screamed: bully me now!), that is a lot of writing practice.
But I know now that this practice had to happen to ensure I gathered solid confidence in my words and my voice. And so, you may ask, how did I know I found my voice? And how do you find yours?
Well, be still in the knowledge that – at the time – I knew my writing felt different all of a sudden. But I didn’t know I was solidifying it into “my author voice”. And the reason I didn’t know was because, just months before then, I had lost my house, been made redundant from my job, broke up from my girlfriend and – worst of all – my lovely mum was diagnosed with liver cancer.
There was a lot going on at the time, so you could forgive me for wanting to escape inside my head to a world of my own creation. A world that has slowly, beautifully, magically grown into my coming-of-age Young Adult fantasy-adventure book “The Pirate’s Potion”.
So, at the time, I was depressed because my mum was dying. Her and I were very close. She was always my go-to person for advice and, now she is gone, I miss that advice and I miss her so much. But, in a way, her passing away has forced me to answer my own life questions and – more importantly – has motivated me to achieve everything I want to with my life and my writing.
And so my mum dying has helped focus my writing into a clear, unique style that I now recognise – over 15 months later – as my author’s voice. I’m certain it would have taken me many more years to develop my voice, so my mum has helped speed up the process.
My writing is better, pacier, and from-the-heart now. So thank you mum.
And as an aside, the lovely Beth Nelder – a friend I made through my work at the Jane Austen Centre – read the first draft of “The Pirate’s Potion” a few weeks ago. Afterwards, we spent a brilliant five hours chatting about life, the universe and my book in a cafe. She gave me so many great pointers (along with my best mate Craig Robb who totally altered a key part of the book in a brilliant way) on how to re-write the next draft but, most importantly, she asked me the following question: “is it weird, Anthony, I hear the narrative in your voice?”
No, Beth, that’s good! Whohoo! I don’t think she, nor I, realised what an important thing she had just asked me. Thanks Beth!
So then I promise you, reader, that if you want to be a writer – and if you keep practicing and just keep writing – you will find your voice at the age you are meant to discover it. You might be 26, you might be 45, you might be 81-years-old. Who knows? Destiny and life events seem to have a big part to play in this, so don’t rush. Just. Keep. Going.
And now I have mine, mum, I intend to make you proud and be a successful author. Love to you. xxx