WRITING KNOWHOW Voice (part three)



We hear a lot about voice in writing, or industry professionals not connecting with a voice – but what exactly is meant by a writer’s 'voice'? SCBWI's Emma Finlayson-Palmer gives us the lowdown.


Making your voice strong and distinct and uniquely you:


Have you ever read a book and wished you’d written it? More specifically, have you ever read a book and loved the voice so much that you wish you could write like that? What was it about the voice that hooked you in and made you want to read on and buy every book in a series?


Find a passage in a book that you’ve read and really love. Copy it out into a notebook and really ask yourself why you love it so much. Or write out a passage you hate and ask yourself why, what is it about the way it’s written that annoys you so much? It’s surprising what we can learn about ourselves from studying other writing.


I’m a big fan of writing lists, I do them for everything. If there’s a particular theme I want to write about I begin a list of words related to that theme. The end result is your own lexicon of words you can dip into to use for your current work in progress. It might even inspire other stories. Lists aren’t just good for themes, you can build lists of place names or characters you might like to use. By doing this you get a bank of ideas that are yours that have grabbed you in some way and these are the words and names that might lead you to your own unique voice.


Honing your voice can often be helped by thinking about who you are actually writing for. Sometimes focusing on the reader will help guide you in what direction you’d like to develop your voice, and often the voices of your characters too.


Sometimes your voice won’t truly emerge until the editing stage. So don’t worry too much when you’re writing a first draft as that’s very much about telling yourself the story. The following drafts can be about making your voice shine through.


*Header by Tita Berredo





Emma Finlayson-Palmer is an autistic, working class writer who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Author of the Autumn Moonbeam series, including Dance Magic and Spooky Sleepover, published by UCLan in 2022. Emma runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter and edits, mentors and reads competition entries for #WriteMentor and also reads flash fiction entries for Retreat West. She’s also one half of Word Witches as a children’s fiction editor. Find Emma on Twitter @FinlaysonPalmer



Jo E Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures KnowHow editor.


Got an idea for KnowHow or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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