I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – your voice, as a writer, is important. It sets the tone. And if you do it right, it will set your writing apart.
Sometimes a distinctive voice works even if other things are wrong. Take Hamish Clayton’s novel Wulf (Penguin 2011). It’s a fantastic read – up for an award in New Zealand. He’s fictionalised a well-known story of piracy in 1830.
The voice Clayton picked for his first-person narrator was literate, poetic, soulful and with a keen sense of metaphor. However, the character Clayton portrayed was a sailor. It is possible that intellectualised poet-sailors plied New Zealand waters, but I’ve never heard of one in all the historical research and writing I’ve done, including when I told the real story that Clayton fictionalised. And yet – yet the novel was fabulous. Why? Because Clayton held tight reign over voice.
So how do you get the right voice. How can you create different writing voices for different purposes – fiction, non-fiction, formal letters, blogging and so forth?
The secret is control. Control of your writing. Words must bend to your command, not the other way around. The ability to express an idea, in words, must become part of your soul. Writing classes can give you a great toolkit– but it’s only the beginning. The work follows. Write every day, without fail. Be self-critical; step back and ask whether you’ve really created a distinct voice, or for your characters. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff away – don’t get wedded to your words. Get wedded to your control over them.
It doesn’t happen overnight. But it will happen if you keep pushing – stepping back and reviewing where you’re at. And it doesn’t have to be too great a chore. In fact it can be fun – try blogging. Hone your writing skills and meet great people in one simple step.
What do you reckon?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012