Finding your voice – Lucy Dawson

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By Lucy Dawson

Writing my first published book was, for me, a joy. I had an idea that was enormous fun to write about, I had characters I believed in and at the time, was lucky enough to have a few hours a day to disappear off to work on it. It all clicked and while I had no idea what was causing this magic – I knew it felt amazing. It was almost effortless; I wrote fast and couldn’t sleep at night because I was desperate to get back to my story the following day. ♥

Now, with a little bit more experience and another four books that have been published since then, I know exactly what it was that worked so well for the first book. I’d found, or more accurately stumbled on – my ‘voice’. For me that means not necessarily writing about an utterly original idea with the most mind-bending twists, but ending up with a book that only you could have written. It’s a distinctive, authentic energy that gives a book life and makes someone want to read on.

The problem is, of course, finding that voice. I wrote two books before my first was published, neither of which, thank God, saw the light of day. Whatever voice I had for them certainly wasn’t a good one. The joy of the third book though? Wow. I can only liken it to buying a house; you go and see several that you think might work – the structures are solid, on a practical level they tick the boxes, but you’re just not feeling it. Then you walk in through the door of somewhere that you may not even have been expecting to fall in love with – and you realise with absolute certainty that you’re home. Maddeningly, there is no science to it. It just, frustratingly, happens.

So while you can’t force finding your voice, (I didn’t truly find mine again until book five) there are in my humble opinion, some things that will absolutely kill off any chance of it emerging.

One of those is trying to write to the market. While it’s great as a so-far-unpublished writer to keep an eye on what the industry is doing, (ie reading the Bookseller, blogs, Q&As with agents and editors about the kind of books they are currently looking for), deciding you’re going to write a psycho thriller, because they are currently so popular, or deciding not to because you’ve seen an article that says the market is over saturated with thrillers now and everyone is looking for feel-good comedies instead, is doomed.

You can only write what you can write, and for what it’s worth, you really do know when something is working. As someone else once – slightly crushingly – told me, the world doesn’t need another book, so it better be one that only YOU can write.


Lucy Dawson studied psychology at Warwick University before becoming a children’s magazine editor. Her first bestselling book – His Other Lover – was published in 2008. Since then she has published four other novels and her work has been translated into numerous other languages. You Sent Me a Letter is available now. She lives in Exeter with her husband and children.

www.lucydawsonbooks.com

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