To all those budding children’s writers out there, I’ve decided to give you all a bit of a advice. Here’s the thing. If you really, really, want to be a writer (whoops, bit spice girly), then it’s important that you ‘find your own voice’.
What on earth does she mean, I hear you ask? (Well, I don’t. But I’m pretending. Pretending is another thing that writers like to do. OK. Back to the serious bit). The ‘voice’ is the style in which you write – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. It could be a dark and mysterious voice, or witty and light-hearted one – but it’s that distinctive voice that tells readers it’s you and only YOU. (This isn’t exactly the same as the ‘character’, because a writer can have loads of different characters in a book(s), but we still recognise the ‘style’ or ‘voice’ that the writer uses).
OK. Let’s see if it works. See if you can identify three very different writers’ ‘voices’ just by a tiny, little extract. I’ll give you their names – just match them to their bit of text:
Beatrice Potter, Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl
a) ‘So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.’
b) ‘This clot […] this black head, this foul carbuncle, this poisonous pustule that you see before you is nothing other than a disgusting criminal’
c) One day little Lucy came into the farm-yard crying – oh, she did cry so!
Did you match the ‘text’ to the ‘voice’? If so, whippeeeeeee! Well done, you!
But how do you ‘find’ your voice?
There are lots of ways to ‘find your voice’. Hard work. Blood sweat and tears. Or you could just do what I did: find it by accident. You see, the ‘voice’ I have isn’t the one I was trying to have. Having spent years many years being an English lecturer, I naturally thought I’d have a sophisticated, clever and literary voice. *Ehem*. Yes! I was going to be a writer bursting with beautiful plots and wonderful prose: the sort that gazes at sunsets and sighs over moors. One that drinks tea from china cups and wears a long, floaty skirt. I’d got it all planned out(ish):
But when I met my soon-to-be agent, she said:
‘You’re actually really funny. Have you written any funny stuff at all?’
‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘But I haven’t brought it with me. I mean, funny’s so easy to write. Don’t you want to see stuff that took me AGES?’
‘OK,’ she said, kindly. I showed her a bit of a book that had taken LOTS of sighing to produce.
‘Hmmm. This is good,’ she said. ‘But can I see the rest?’
‘Oh, well there isn’t actually any rest yet,’ I confessed. ‘But there will be. One day. Soon.’
She laughed. ‘Thing is,’ she said. ‘You are very funny. And funny is tricky to write….’
‘Is it?’ (I was surprised).
‘Yes. I love your posts. (Gosh. I know, all you hopefuls! Yes! Agents actually visit people’s blogs!!!!) And the books that you’ve already written are really funny.’ (She meant A Hen in the Wardrobe and The Black Cat Detectives).
‘Are they?’ (I was surprised all over again!)
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Very funny.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘They weren’t supposed to be funny. I think I can be funnier if I try.’
‘Can you? Well, try then,’ she said.
So I did. And I can’t stop. I LOVE it. At last, I am being MYSELF. The writing just flows and makes me giggle. And I don’t GROAN or take AGES any more. (Oh, and it got me a lovely book deal with an even lovelier publisher. And brought to life the quirky Wendy Quill):
For those of a curious nature, have a sneaky peek and click here:
Wohoooo! I’ve FOUND MY SLIGHTLY SILLY VOICE!!! And though some of you are ABSOLUTELY meant to gaze at sunsets and sigh over moors …. writing paragraphs in long floaty skirts. I’ve finally realised, it’s just not me.
I’m more of a jeans and jumper sort 🙂