Finding the right voice

I’ve been obsessed with voice recently. The voice of characters, the voice in my writing, and my very own actual voice.

All three are so connected – the voices we hear from characters as we read them, the voices we try to create as we write them, and our own voice, our own identity are inextricably linked.

So often people talk about how important it is to find your voice in your writing or to just ‘be yourself’ but there’s little advice on how to get there. Do you take a sampling of personalities, trying them on like new suits to see if their voice feels natural coming out of your mouth? Do you take a stand, deciding up front what your thoughts and opinions are going to be and refusing to budge? It’s impossibly difficult, and something that I struggle with both as an individual and as a writer.

Reading and writing YA fiction, there is a liberating freedom in knowing that your audience is probably having these same thoughts about identity and voice, and that they’re probably honest enough to know it’s not easy.

We’re often called up to defend our voices – the way we say things, the things we say, even the way other people hear them. And as writers, we are applauded if we deliver something that seems natural “so and so has really found their voice in this piece…” and so on. Does this mean that we’re stuck? That once we’ve ‘found’ it that we can’t change our minds? What if I write a piece that is totally honest, raw and real and the voice in it resonates with a particular group of people. And then what if a week, a month, or a year later I decide that I want to write something totally different, that the original readers will at best be completely ambivalent about or at worst, mock loudly and consistently. Is changing your voice selling out? It’s enough to make you want to scream.

This year I’ve found that I just couldn’t care less. And suddenly I’m writing more. For the first time I’ve made it into a piece of work further than one chapter. I have a plan for a beginning, a middle and an end. And I’m going to finish it, put it out there, and keep doing so until someone likes it. Perhaps finding your voice isn’t so much a magic moment of being right, but starting not to care when you’re wrong.