Monday 18 April 2016

Finding Your Writer’s Voice

By Maggi Andersen

You can follow Maggi on Twitter here

When I first began writing to publish some years ago, the first bit of advice I was offered at university was to ‘write what you know’. Was I to write a sort of autobiography? I hated the idea. The stories I wanted to write were not about me, or so I thought. But to ‘write what you know’ isn’t about the events in your life, it’s about the emotions you’ve experienced. Whether it be love, loss, longing, disappointment or jealousy. Have you ever wanted something so badly you might have killed for it (metaphorically speaking, of course)?

It doesn’t matter whether you set your story where you live or on the other side of the world–as I did with my first novel. If you’re drawing from your own personal emotional experiences, your readers will feel it. And hopefully, your characters will leap off the page!

A good way I found initially, was to free-write. Just let go and let the words flow. Interesting what can come from that. And even years later, my first drafts can be a bit wild. I like to experiment, because I can always take it back a peg or two, and fear can be a good motivator. It forces you to write about something that matters, and releases the unique quality we all have, our voice.

Voice, I believe, is not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique emotional response, and a distinctive way of looking at the world. Publishers want to read an author who has an original voice. When you settle down to read your favorite writer, you know what to expect from them, their voice is recognizable in their syntax, in their descriptive world building, in their emotions, and in their basic outlook on life.

For newbie writers, I say express yourself in your own unique way. We don’t talk exactly like anyone else, so why should we write like everyone else?

All those years I spent reading Georgette Heyer, who set her characters in a charming world with such clarity and delightful humour, might have developed my voice for writing Regency romance. I hope so. I love writing them.

My Regency series features two families, the Brandreths (who first appeared in the Spies of Mayfair series) and the Baxendales five daughters. The two estates run together in Tunbridge Wells, a town frequented by the ton. They’ve become one big family since two Baxendale daughters married Brandreth sons. Each novella in The Baxendale Sisters revolves a young lady’s come-out and the trials she must face before she can marry the man of her dreams.

Buy Maggi's books here

Love to Love... Books on ‘plotting and structuring your novel’, but never seem to apply it to my work.

Love to Laugh... funny memes and pictures on Facebook.

Source: Funny Pictures Facebook Page.

Love to Learn... How to promote my books on a shoestring, and spend no more than an hour a week. That’s a work in progress.

Here’s an (unedited) sneak peek from Maggi's latest book, The Seduction of Lady Charity. The fourth book in the Baxendale Sisters series is released 20th April.

Lady Charity Baxendale has long dreamed of becoming a renowned portrait painter. After two significant commissions from esteemed family members, a rakish Scottish baron commissions her to paint his portrait, and she feels she is one step closer to that dream. When Robin, Lord Stanberry, with whom Charity has had a long friendship, asks her to marry him, she must choose between marriage and her career. He is heir to a dukedom, and Charity fears she would be unsuited to life as a duchess, and her burgeoning career would end before it begins. And besides, Robin has made no mention of love.

Due to tragic, unforeseen circumstances, Robin is now the Duke of Harwood. He feels himself unfitted for such a position. Robin was perfectly content living as a viscount in Tunbridge Wells, writing a book on ornithology. He’d hoped to have Charity at his side by the time he took his place at Harwood Castle in Northumberland, for her pragmatic nature and strength of character would be of enormous help to him. Should he have thrown himself at her feet and declared an undying love? Charity would have seen through it, for that was not the sort of friendship they enjoyed. But her refusal has brought him lower than he’d thought possible. Could he change her mind, despite the distance that now lay between them?

You can check out more of Maggi's books on Maggi Andersen's website

Or you can follow Maggi on her Facebook page


  1. Great post Maggi. Thsnk you for explaining what writing what you know really means. Did you star off wtiting novellas or longer novels and what made you decide that novellas were the way to go for you?

  2. Thanks so much for featuring me today! I've always written novellas and short stories, but when I first began to write, I intended to write crime novels. My first novel was a murder mystery. I still write both, but I prefer the shorter format, because they suit my economical writing style. They've become more popular as e-books can be read on mobiles and many devices. A good quick read in a world where we are all time poor. They used to be seen as inferior to a book, but I hope that's no longer the case. After all, THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a beautifully crafted novella.

    1. Very true Maggi. I was surprised to find that the book that the movie Brokeback Mountain was based on was also a novella. The Green Mile by Stephen King is a Novella as is the Shawshank Redemption.

  3. Hi Maggi! Love your definition of voice as 'a unique emotional response, and a distinctive way of looking at the world'. It continues to amaze me that we authors each have a writing voice as easy to recognise as our speaking voice, but when you define it as you have, of course we are all different and that is reflected in the words we choose and the style in which we write.

  4. Hi Maggi. Thank you for your great insight into the writer's voice. As you say, everyone has different emotional responses and that's a terrific way to define 'voice'.

  5. After reading some people's work, I can sometimes spot 'their' voice, and welcome it in future novels. It's so lovely when that happens, it's part of the unique welcome for a reader when starting someone's book. Thanks Maggi.

    1. Isn't Malvina? It's like settling down with an old friend!

  6. Hi Maggi, great post, thank you . I remember being told I had a good voice by my agent when I first started writing and I thought - she hasn't heard me sing, how does she know that??? I had no idea. Hopefully I have learnt a bit since then and I agree, an original voice and writing what you know is important. And as you say it doesn't matter what the subject of what you know is, as long as its real, sincere your readers will identify. P.S. Your books look great and I will have to check out shoestring... I've never heard of it.

  7. Great article Maggi Andersen!
    Love your book covers!

  8. Hi Maggi, thank you for sharing your knowledge of "write what you know" with us. I think exploring our shared humanity by vicariously experiencing the emotions of characters (and by extension authors) is what makes reading good novels and novellas so addictive.

  9. Great post Maggi. Thsnk you for explaining what writing what you know really means. Did you star off wtiting novellas or longer novels and what made you decide that novellas were the way to go for you?

  10. Maggi, Thank you for sharing this with us. People had different lifestyles in times past but emotions - love, hate, jealousy etc., haven't changed.


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