No, I don't mean I've got some horrible lurgy! I'm talking about 'voice' - that indefinable something that appears in what a writer writes.
In the past, I've been accused of being 'too nice'...of not being 'thrilling' enough...of not having 'commercial sparkle'. Last Friday, I received another rejection for Rurik; 'fluent and professional, but the voice was not strong enough to draw me in.'
I've heard it before in various guises, so it didn't surprise me. I'm not overly disappointed either - there are more agents to hear from who might have other things to say.
What it did start me wondering, was whether my 'voice' will EVER be strong enough for an agent. I know what 'voice' means - I can recognise it in others and often wish to goodness that I had something as distinctive - but I don't think it's something that can be manufactured. I recognise that I am, first and foremost, a storyteller, and I think I tell a good story.
Just not with a 'strong voice'.
I found this at Writing World, in a post about 'Finding your Voice as a Children's author':
'One thing that separates great authors from mediocre ones is that their writing appears effortless, even if it took tremendous work to achieve. A forced voice happens when authors try too hard to sound like a writer. I think the best voices appear when authors write as they speak. Has a story ever sounded profound and lyrical in your head, but lost something when you put it on paper? That's because in your head you're telling the story to yourself in your speaking voice, and when you write it down suddenly you're trying to be a writer. You go searching through the thesaurus for the perfect word, something you'd never use in normal conversation. You use three words of description, just because you can, rather than one word that really says everything you need to say. And suddenly in that process of writing down what's in your head, you've lost your voice. You've adapted the voice of someone else, or the voice you think your writing should have. So next time you write, try writing exactly what's in your head. If you type, try typing your writing exercise with your eyes closed, so you can't see the computer screen. Closing your eyes also helps you focus inward where the story is being conceived. Then you'll be guided by how the words sound and feel, and that's the closest thing to your true voice.'
So there you have it - I'm probably destined to be a mediocre author rather than a bestseller.
What do I do then, about my 'voice'?
1. Stick with it - this style and voice which IS mine at present - even though it doesn't suit the industry?
2. Be true to myself and put reader's opinions about my stories above the market's opinion, ignoring the issue of voice completely?
3. Stop worrying about whether a 'proper' publisher wants to publish my stories, because in this age of self-publishing it is (relatively) easy to publish myself?
4. Alter how I write?
I really don't know.
To those of you who've read my 'stuff' - can you see 'me' in every piece I write? Is there a recognisable 'Katherine Hetzel' element to my work?
If so, WHAT THE HECK IS IT? I'd love to know...