Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Inner Voice

Did you know that Bridget Jones’s Diary started out its life in The Independent or that when Andrew Marr was editor of The Independent he was sacked spectacularly? No, neither did I, but thankfully I have currently reached the chapter called All about Me, in Andrew Marr’s book, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism. Actually, it’s not really called that, but it is all about him and he is now succeeded in making me think that the world over is full of Mickey Mouse institutions.

Apart from that I went to my first Scubwee (SCBWI) ‘Event’. I was a little worried about the whole thing when an e mail came round telling us to bring ‘nibbles’. My eyebrow arched as far as the brow could go and I took to wondering about that little animated mouse again. My contribution was hastily prepared (little round toasts with a hunk of cheese chucked on top) and when I arrived I noticed the pile of books that sat before Mary and Marcie before the bottles of wine; these guys were serious. They were also as generous with their wine as they were with their advice and to say that I am all a little overwhelmed is an understatement. Do this, don’t do that, write this, go there, go here and that’s just the advice about getting an agent and trying to get published. It was a rather sobering doze of realism, but thankfully I’m big into fantasy, so I’m not put off yet.

We talked about voice and what it was and then analysed a couple of pieces to see if the ‘voice’ was right. I don’t know about you but I’ve always assumed that voice is what the reader hears in their head. It’s like the thread that sews the book together and if the thread breaks or there are knots, it doesn’t work as well as if your sewing is seamless, but it’s true that that doesn’t describe what it is. Someone else’s notes (oh yes, there were handouts), described it as who the writer is and who the character is combined equals voice. Rennie Brown and Dave King in Self Editing for Fiction Writers say: The trick to bringing out a strong voice from yourself is ‘not to concentrate on it.’ It can’t be taught. Hmm?

We split into littlies and grumpy moody teenager group and the crunch moment was upon us. I pulled out the double spaced sheets (evidence that I am back at work and no longer using my own paper – although I did print on both sides in an effort to save paper) hands shaking and passed around page 1 of chapter 1 (and obviously page 2 as well). “I think if we stop at the bottom of page one that will be fine.” I mumbled and the chosen one began to read. It’s interesting hearing the voice in another accent, because if I have become aware of anything this last year, it’s that my ‘voice’ is BRITISH. There are things I will not compromise in my writing, but at the same time I don’t want my language to be so obscure that it’s limited, so it’s always an interesting exercise to get another accent to read your work. I guessed when they all flipped over to page 2 that things were going well. When the group leader had to force us to stop reading I began to feel a little proud. The good news is THEY LIKED IT. While I recognise that I still have a lot of work to do, my head is feeling very bloated and I wandered around on a little cloud of inner glow yesterday!

I also realised where I had met Mary before. It was at a baby shower, where I had turned up late and flustered and as the whole room looked on I handed over my gift to the expectant mother in a plastic bag. When Mum to be’s face began to crease I wondered what I had put in the bag. It was the present, I was sure; it had been banging softly and squeaking against my knee all the way there. Mum to be pulled out the book and read the title: “A hundred years of Dyslexia? Are you trying to tell me something about my kid?”


Minx said...

Oh, so glad it went well. I know you were worried about it, but have faith in your own words.
As for voice, yes, I don't think it is anything that can be taught - only that it can be enhanced as confidence grows.
You probably forgot that you regularly throw your words out into the world here on the blog. Good practice, exercise and you are already used to a certain amount of feedback.
Encouragement is the best meal a writer can eat.

Marie said...

So glad you had a good time.

Verilion said...

It wasn't the criticism that I was worried about, it was the look on their faces after they had read that first page. In my opinion that's where you get the best criticism, if your reader avoids eye contact afterwards it doesn't matter what comes out their mouth, because they hated your writing. Luckily they were all looking straight at me, phew! So yep, I was floating on Friday.
And Marie I think I may have even had too good a time, I had a very wee headache too on Friday morning!


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