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Find Your Voice For 2019

January 2nd, 2019

First, let me say Happy New Year! I hope that 2019 will be a prosperous and peaceful one – and one where we can eventually turn on the TV or open a newspaper without being bombarded by Brexit!

I’ve just been reading the January issue of Writing Magazine and there was an interview with crime writer Rod Reynolds. He was asked for his top tips and the first one was:

“The one thing that I hear agents and editors say they’re looking for above all: voice. Learn what that is, then hone yours, make it unique, make it consistent throughout. Not easy, but key.”

He’s right, it’s not easy but I do know what he means. With some writers you enjoy the story they’re telling but there’s nothing that sets them apart from hundreds of others. On the other hand, there are authors who have an unmistakable style that’s recognisable and that keeps readers coming back for more. I’ll try to explain more clearly by giving some very different examples of authors that I think have ‘voice’.

First, there’s George Orwell. I’m just re-reading 1984 but all his writing – fiction or non-fiction – is very distinctive and you can tell that it comes from his personal experiences and the era when he was writing.

Next, Hilary Mantel – she hasn’t won the Booker Prize twice for nothing! It was awarded in 2009 for Wolf Hall and again in 2012 for the sequel, Bring Up The Bodies, the first two parts of her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and the court intrigues of Henry VIII. She sets the scene so intensely and brings her characters to life so vividly that you’re totally immersed in the Tudor world for the duration of her books. Thomas Cromwell was a flawed man, but you can’t help routing for him.

Moving from historical to crime fiction, the Scottish writer Denise Mina is another writer with a distinct voice. She brings the seamier side of Glasgow and the criminal fraternity that infest it to life. You can empathise with her characters – good and bad – and I’m always left wanting to know what happens to them after I’ve turned the last page of the book (assuming they’re still alive)!

Finally, C J Skuse, and her girl-next-door serial killer, Rhiannon. On the cover of her first adult novel, Sweet Pea, it says that it’s ‘American Psycho meets Fleabag’ and they’re not far wrong. If you watched Fleabag on the TV and it disgusted you, don’t read this novel; if you loved it, then you’ll probably enjoy the book. It’s witty, funny, there’s loads of sex, violence and bad language but despite the main character’s obvious flaws you can’t help but like her. This is ‘voice’ being used to the best effect. I can’t wait to read the sequel , In Bloom.

If you’re a writer and still puzzling about ‘voice’, sit down and make a list of the books you’ve read recently that have really held you spellbound. Analyse them and try to discover why they’ve had this effect on you, and by the time you’ve finished you might have a better idea of what editors and agents are looking for in 2019.

And finally, before I end, just a quick reminder that 2019 is the Writers Bureau’s 30th anniversary, and we’ll be holding all kind of writing-related events throughout the year. So keep checking our website, social media and this blog to see what’s going on, and what competitions and events we’ll  be holding.  We’ve been helping writers to achieve their dreams since 1989 – long may it continue!

Author: Diana Nadin

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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