It's that elusive thing that we all know we're supposed to have, but aren't exactly sure how we get it. Agents and editors and kindly writer friends tell us it's a good thing; we agree. We kind of know the definition - it's the way of writing that an author has that makes them different from others.
We need to be different, unique; we know that.
Not so long ago, I would have had no clue about how to answer this question, but finishing Jess has been a wonderful experience, not just because I finally got it finished (only my second completed novel), but because I've learned so much in the process.
I'm beginning to hear my own voice.
It's such a fragile thing that I'm not even sure how to put it into words - or even whether to do so might not somehow break the limited understanding that I do have. But for the sake of the blog - for you, who read it - I'd like to try.
I spoke last week about how Jesscapades is a different story now to what I'd planned. That's okay. This is pretty standard state of affairs. You can never know everything there is to know about a story until it's written - and even then you won't know it all. (A favourite writing quote of mine: How can I know what I think until I see what I say?)
But in the process of becoming, Jesscapades has shown me not just what it can be, but what my writing can - and should - be.
Originally, Jesscapades was intended to be action-y, fast-paced, full of cool action scenes and fights and technology. But looking back over the story, there isn't actually a lot of that in there. Oh, sure, there are a few fight scenes (we are talking about a guild of assassins here, after all), and there are a couple of mentions of technology - but on the whole, the focus of the story is on the main character, and on her development: how she confronts her past and changes as a person.
When I first realised that, I was sad. "I've failed," I thought. "I tried to write an action novel and I failed!"
But thinking on it, I realised something else: Failure is relative. Okay, so I didn't do what I set out to do - but I certainly did something else. And the book certainly isn't bad.
So what did I do? Well, I'm still not 100% sure - I'm looking forward to reading the novel with fresh eyes once I come back from holidays - but I do know a few things. My novels will always be character-driven. Sure, Jesscapades has an awesome plot, and some Really Cool Things happen; but it took me a while to find my focus in the novel, and when I did, I realised it was actually all about the character.
And then there's that voice thing. It's so hard to articulate, but after 70,000 words on this novel and, let's see *checks stat sheet*, about 260,000 words of writing over the previous two years, I'm finally beginning to sense my voice. It's somewhere in between ornate and sparse (wow, that's descriptive; I mean, don't all voices fall somewhere in that range? o.O), probably more towards the sparse end of the spectrum, but there are moments of worldbuilding that really seem to shine. The dialogue seems to have a rhythm to it, and I can feel myself becoming intimately familiar with my own pattern of syntax; my choice of words, my turn of phrase, the length and rhythm of my paragraphs - all these things are working together to develop a voice - and slowly, slowly, I'm beginning to hear it.
What about you? Can you hear your own voice yet, or is it something you're still developing? Do you think we can ever hear our own voices clearly?