Monday, 4 November 2013

I've lost my voice...

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...


  1. Found this on the busy mockingbird to add to the thought process:

    'The lesson I keep learning and have to relearn again and again is that other peoples’ input is SUCH a great source of inspiration for me, but that trying TOO hard to create something specifically that other people might like is a dead end. DO WHAT YOU LOVE and do it with all the joy you have, just for the sheer joy of doing it, and people are bound to enjoy it and feel that love in it.

    And if they don’t…well, why do you care, as long as you’re happy?'

    I need to worry less...!

  2. Sorry to hear of another rejection. It's heartbreaking.
    'Voice' is a tricky concept, isn't it? But at least you're fluent and professional :-)

    1. Yep - every cloud has a silver lining, Suzanna!

  3. Hey, Squidgers. I'm not sure I've read enough of your material to say that 'Oooh, Squidge wrote that', but what I would say is be true to yourself. Your voice should be what comes naturally to you in your mind, anything else would be forced. That is not to say that you couldn't 'play' about with your voice.
    I'm sorry about the rejection. Ouch. But you just need to find the agent who loves Rurik as much as you do. x

    1. Thanks, Abi - I'm hoping there'll be someone out there who loves him as much as me!

  4. Katherine. As I see it, you have several seperate and distinct voices depending on whether you are writing for adults or children. GR has one voice, Rurik another and your adult stuff, another. In my view, this is how it should be. You wouldn't want to be writing for adults in your GR voice, I think... Recognisably you? That's a difficult one. Of all the authors I read, about the only one I might recognise is Lee Child. And then, it's only might... As you know, we scribblers need more than just talent. We also need bags of perseverance too. You have oodles of talent! Keep plugging away - you'll get there; it only takes one..:-) Stevie Mark x

    1. Now that's interesting, Stevie - that even the stuff I write for kids varies... I suppose it proves I can alter the voice; it's settling on one that works for everyone, ie me, agent, publisher AND reader.

      Thanks for the continuing support x

  5. Yes, there is definitely a 'Squidge' voice that comes through in all of your writing. There is nothing forced about it.It may not be suiting the agents who have read it so far but that may just be because it's not landed on the right agent's desk at the right time. This isn't to say that you should doggedly stick with a voice when you find it just for the sake of sticking with that voice because voice can alter over time and depend on the genre you are writing - but yes, I think you should be true to your voice and not try to force it to sound in a particular way just for market (or agent) appeal because voice is something you can't fake and it would be like walking through life pretending to be someone you are not. Keep at it - and stuff those agents - some of us believe in your voice! :-)

  6. Thanks, Mandy x I think I'm getting my head round the fact that I have a voice, just not one that stands out in a crowd! Bit like me in real life ;)

  7. I think your voice *does* stand out! Think how often I get involved in crits on the cloud? I hardly ever have time to do it so when I do get round to reading, I only ever dive into the ones that really, really hook me - and that's exactly what Rurik did for me and it was the voice that hooked me...along with those exquisitely woven descriptions :-) The voice is there - maybe it still has places to go (we all change with experience so our writing voices are likely to evolve too) but it's definitely there and it stands out to me - and I'm sure several others who have read your various writings :-)

    1. I'm honoured...and quite chuffed by that, Mandy! Thank you!

      I'm beginning to think yes, I have a voice - but it gets interrupted sometimes when I'm being overly writerly - so isn't always consistent. I'm going to have to learn to be me, more often!