Last year, I published a novel called Bricktop’s Club. I was super proud of myself (still am) because, well, IT WAS HARD. Since then, I wonder if I had made it harder for myself. Honestly, I think I did. Because the book was Historical Fiction for adults. Don’t get me wrong, I love Historical Fiction. I read it all the time. And it wasn’t the first book I’d written. I’d already ploughed my way through a Historical supernatural book, which if you ever want to read – can be found in two places: in a file on my computer marked SHELVED, and in several agents’ rejection boxes.
The problem was, five years ago, when I wrote Bricktop’s Club, I was trying TOO HARD. I was trying to be a writer. Like I had written a mental list of all the ways you ‘do writing’ and then spent the next year and a half ticking them off. If you ever read it, you’ll notice my voice trying to elbow its way into the prose. But the truth is that my voice didn’t belong in Historical Fiction, so I spent a lot of my time REIGNING IT IN. That’s not fun, but I persevered because that’s what I thought writers do. We suffer for our art, don’t we?
Then I did something that I constantly worry has broken my brand and negatively affected my buyability to agents. I switched genre.
The truth is, I had a story I NEEDED to tell. And there wasn’t one iota of Historical Fiction in sight.
That’s when I began writing Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure. And oh my God, it was like Christmas! Suddenly, my voice was free. The words, the characters, the stories, the winks and nods, flowed out of me like a dang river. THIS IS ME. THIS IS MY GENRE. Funnily enough, the magic ingredient to me finding all that out, was to stop trying to be a writer, and to start writing like me.
I see a lot of writers out there who say they struggle with their voice. It’s a wriggly little fellow, who enjoys slipping through writerly fingers. Here’s some tips:
- Listen to yourself. Everyone has that inner voice. Listen to it. Harness it. Leave a trail of literary breadcrumbs and get it to come out into the open.
- Write how you think. First drafts are messy creatures, so WALLOW IN THE MUD. Forget trying to be writerly, and just pour out your thoughts and feelings. Your voice loves freedom, trust me.
- Be brave. Your voice is unique. No-one else has it. Which means there’s nowhere to hide. You’re really putting yourself out there. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why it’s beautiful.
- Hang on to it, tight. Did I mention that your voice is a bit wriggly? I did? Well, it is. So hang on to it, and don’t let anything prise open those fingers (I’m talking to you, Imposter Syndrome!).
- Have fun. Writing is hard, yes. But it shouldn’t be a chore. Like the song says: “When you’re smiling, the world smiles with you”. I genuinely believe that applies to our fictional worlds too.
Happy Writing, Writerly Friends.x