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Finding Your Writer’s Voice with Mary Malone

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Mary Malone

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To find something we must first understand what we’re looking for, or in this case what we are trying to discover?

What is a writing voice? How can a voice shine through the written word? Is it possible for every writer/author to develop a unique writing voice?

The answer is most definitely YES! But settling into a style of writing that feels natural, a style that flows seamlessly and ‘sounds’ authentic may take some time.

Imagine a situation in your life where you have felt slightly intimidated by those around you or where you believe that you don’t quite measure up. In an effort to fit in, you alter your speaking voice and pretend to be something you’re not.

Though you may manage to keep it up for part of the occasion, it’s quite possible that a loss of concentration will undoubtedly cause you to dip in and out between the ‘put-on twang’ and your natural voice. And if you can hear it, it’s highly probable that your ‘audience’ will also recognise the variation and find it (and maybe you) rather irritating.

Have you ever bumped into a friend or acquaintance who have merely received a letter from the US and are already perfecting an American drawl? Aren’t you tempted to snigger inside when they get excited about something and revert to normal?

Moral of the story – trying to be something or sound like somebody that you’re not will be noticed by your listeners (or readers!). In the world of books and writing, a forced or ‘borrowed’ voice will probably limit your chances of capturing agents’ and publishers’ attention as it may not be sustainable right to the end.

Confidence and experience boosts a person’s ability to feel comfortable in any situation and this is equally apparent for writers. Emulating other authors (particularly successful authors), following their style in an attempt to reproduce a similar piece of writing and expecting it to read authentically is a common mistake amongst novice or debut authors. It was certainly top of my writing faults when I submitted my first manuscript.

Rejection letters (at least for me) pointed out this grave error, encouraging rewriting in ‘my own voice’ to improve the manuscript. Editors and literary agents aren’t looking for impersonators. No, they are looking for original writers with original voices – and of course the next big thing!

With this information on board, I reread my manuscript and cringed at the stilted tone – amazing what I noticed after it had been pointed out by experts! Though every ‘word’ had been carefully selected and sentence, paragraph and chapter structure had been managed with precision, the story lacked emotion, depth and dimension. And it certainly didn’t sound anything like I had intended. I almost went as far as calling the agents and publishers to apologise for sending them something so cold!

Simple as it sounds, ‘be yourself’ when you’re writing. Of course this nugget of advice needs further, and very necessary, clarification.

Does ‘being yourself’ or ‘sounding like yourself’ limit your ability to set your story or create characters in foreign, exotic lands with numerous accents – most definitely not. Voice and dialogue are separate entities, the former the overall ‘sound’ or ‘tone’ of the writing, the latter portraying a character and bringing him or her to life.

Plot, story, language and setting all contribute to a writer’s voice. Writing a story that excites you is key, regardless of genre. How authors approach their topics will differ, pace and suspense will vary as will the beginning, middle and end of the novel. But once a story is told through an author’s natural style of writing, any genre is within grasp.

With the average novel taking up to a year to complete, it’s important an author is prepared to engage with all aspects of their work. When an author relaxes their obsession with ‘perfect writing’ and allows words to flow naturally on to the page, injecting energy and passion into the story rather than worrying if the writing is ‘posh’ or ‘perfect’ enough, the story and character will take wings and breathe and yet another ‘writer’s voice’ is born.

(c) Mary Malone

About the author

Mary Malone lives in Templemartin, Bandon, Co. Cork with her husband, Pat, and sons, David and Mark. As well as being a novelist and freelance journalist, she works fulltime in the Central Statistics Office.

Where There’s A Will is her fifth novel.

About Where There’s A Will

Inheritance – a sharp knife cutting through a family unit.

Being summoned to the reading of his aunt’s will, Kieran Dulhooly is shocked to discover he’s the sole beneficiary, inheriting her valuable West Cork home as well as a substantial amount of savings. But his windfall comes with a clause: he must live in the house for a period of 12 months before receiving rightful ownership.

Kieran’s euphoria is short-lived, his aunt’s conditions stifling for her wanderlust nephew.

Waiting in the wings and next in line to inherit are Kieran’s sisters, Beth and Charlotte. Already planning on how they’d spend their inheritance, the girls set out on a course of destruction, determined to get their share – one way or another.

Will Kieran walk away from a substantial opportunity? Is settling in one place for a year beyond possible? Or will the spark he feels for the vulnerable girl next door prompt him to take a chance and accept Aunt Polly’s challenge?

For more information, please email: mary@marymalone.ie or visit her website, www.marymalone.ie.

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