Friday, January 16, 2009


Voice: we all have one.

It's as unique as our fingerprints, almost impossible to replicate and one of the many things I love about books: the author's voice.

Voice, style, flare, whatever you want to call it, every writer has a distinct way of getting their story across.

Voice is what makes certain authors auto-buys for me.
Voice keeps me turning pages deep into the night when I should be sleeping.
Voice can make me laugh, smile, even cry on the odd occasion.

Lately, I've been doing a fair amount of judging, hence the choice of topic.

Writers, take note: even if your plot has major holes, your conflict is weak and your characters need a good kick in the pants to make them head in the right direction, if your voice is strong and captivating, the rest can be fixed.

Plots can be strengthened, conflict tightened and characters placed firmly back on the straight and narrow, but you can't fix voice.

Here's a little story.
An old uni friend of mine, who I hadn't seen in years, contacted me after she read several of my books. She thoroughly enjoyed them but the thing that really struck me was when she said 'reading one of your books is like sitting across from you at the cafeteria table and hearing you tell stories.'
(Looks like I was a bit of a chatterbox even back then!)

That really hit home. It told me I have a voice. A voice I've been told is fun, flirty, witty and modern by various editors. A voice I stay true to, no matter what series I'm writing for.

Here's another little story.
An author recently said her voice had been diluted and weakened by a critique group she joined and it took her much longer to get published. She reworked a manuscript so much according to suggestions that her voice was lost. When she subbed the original manuscript years later, it sold. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing critique groups or partners in any way, but don't forget that each critique is one reader's opinion. And in the end, it's the editor's opinion that counts.

So the moral of these tales?

Stay true to your voice.
Work it. Hone it. Polish it.

That's my 'write whisper' for this week.


Aideen said...

Hi Nicola,

I'm not sure if you writing this post at this exact time is fate or just plain old irony.
I'm going to go with fate because, well because I'm a glass half full kinda girl.
I was lucky enough to receive positive feedback after the Feel the Heat comp, I was told the editors were interested in my stlye of writing. My voice, while noted to be a bit raw at the moment, is apparently flirty, sexy and comtemporary too. Who knew?! Anyway, the full ms was requested for further assessment.
I'm on that at the moment and my biggest issue has been trying to keep the voice that clearly grabbed the attention. But I've been nit picking plot and conflict and characters and etc etc till I've wanted to scream.
I can honestly say that after reading this post I'm feeling much much better. My voice is mine and I'm using it to tell my story, my way. I'll still worry about the other stuff but I'm going to remember this post and learn from it. I do know that regardless of the outcome, this is a lovely step forward for me.

Thanks for your excellent timing,

Nicola Marsh said...

You're welcome, Aideen.

I'm sooo glad it helped.

And congrats on the full request. That's fabulous!
Good luck with your submission.

Joanne said...

Thanks for your post Nicola - I found it really interesting.

**Aideen - what fab news - all the best with your sub

Monique Wood said...

Congrats, Aideen. Well done! It proves that if you're persistent, it pays off.

Nicola, the funny thing I've found is that some judges who read my work like my voice, and others don't so much. It really seems to be a matter of opinion. I received some really nice scores for 'X' factor from the majority, but one was rather average in the last comp.

I guess the big thing is you can't please everyone. I really try to inject fun and warmth in my work. I'm not sure if it really translates to the judges, but I try!

Hmm, wonder if you've judged my work, eh? I had 4 pubbed judges for Hi5, and I'm in the Emerald. Interesting...!!!!

Dena said...

Great post Nic! While I'm just a reader I think it's wonderful advice for writers and I love your Voice, keep it coming.

Liz Fielding said...

Great post, Nic. When I read books by authors I know personally I can always "hear" them. If I couldn't there would be something wrong.

The voice is absolute the most distinctive thing about an author. It's what brings readers back time and time again. Or sometimes turns them off.

We don't like everyone we meet, neither do we like every author, but it's a mistake to try and scrub out the bits that irritate some people. If we did that, we'd be so bland that no one would want to read us. :)

Well done to hang onto yours, Aileen. Good luck with the book.

Nicola Marsh said...

You're welcome, Joanne :)

Nicola Marsh said...

That's why you need to stay true to your voice, Mon.
Reading is subjective, so stick to what you believe deep down in your gut is right.

Nicola Marsh said...

Thanks Dena :)

Nicola Marsh said...

You're so right, Liz.

It's why I have your latest sitting on top of my TBR pile :)