Monday, 18 January 2010

Finding Your Voice

I loved my MA. I'd started writing with short stories and carried on, experimenting with different styles and genres, happily going all over the place, sometimes ultra literary, sometimes more down to earth. I must admit, I never worried about finding 'my' voice, as I know many people do. I just assumed that as it was me writing, my voice would sort of turn up at some point.

Then, that Christmas, there was a Stephen King short story competition in the Sunday Times and I gaily decided to enter, despite having read only one Stephen King novel in my life. I felt that the essence of Stephen King involved sex, violence and assault by unlikely objects or animals. My short story, Slither, was about a sexually frustrated young woman who ends up being eaten by killer earthworms, all written up in a over-blown literary style jam-packed with symbolism and alliteration. It didn't win.

Some years later I was rooting around my files looking for a 'how not to write' example for class and came across Slither. As I read the first paragraph I realised that this would do nicely as a 'how not to write' example, so carried on reading. And there it was. Half way down page two. My voice. In between all the symbolism (and it's amazing quite what you can get from the humble earthworm) there is a short passage when the main character is having a pass made at her by a would-be lover. She's unmoved, bored even, as he rummages down her bra as if trying to find Radio 4 despite dodgy aerial reception. Then it goes back to the killer earthworms and their literary intentions and all is lost.

That passage is the first time I'm aware that my voice turns up. But the thing is, I didn't recognise it at the time. I carried on writing and a few months later started the novel that became Adultery for Beginners. So, I don't think you need worry about finding your own voice. It's going to be there. You just might not recognise it right now.

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