Only you can know what you write

I was confused and struggling with voice, something we discussed a lot at the MA in Writing Creative Non-Fiction session yesterday. I also talked about it afterwards with a few others on the course and came to a  conclusion that, in hindsight, may have seemed obvious: only you, the writer, can know the book you are writing.

The source of my confusion was a conflict between what I was thinking I should write for the subject (Pain Management), what I knew about it, my technical writing style (possible dry or patronising), the style the book should be in and what the lecture, the effervescent Ian Marchant, was seeming to expect in both voice and content.  I had previously amended my introduction after feedback over use of the second person, had gathered some research and put it together (totalling 8k+ words, now), but had found a real conflict in voice.  The amount of technical detail that was apparently being suggested was at odds with the simplistic and honest approach the book itself demanded.  Such technical detail was already present on the ‘net or in other books: there was no way I could provide a complete one-stop-shop in a short, easily digestible book.

It froze my output for a while, and at a time when I was struggling to control the pain (I had some breakthrough pain – not good). It meant I could not experiment and, indeed, felt that experimenting (as encouraged) would put me at odds with what was required for the course. I was stuck.  After a chat with Ian I put together a few things in a new voice which seemed to work in the seminar but which would have meant a book that would be too long.

However, Ian then stressed that (and I quote thenotes from my notetaker, not him) he may well be completely wrong, that as a writer you have to be true to your text, imagining what that book looks like, where on the shelf will it go and who will buy it.  This may help in building voice but he also added that though you have to hold an image of your text, very often voice grows as you go along.  Sometimes, you have to surrender yourself to the process and ignore those whose image conflicts with your own because, ultimately, only you can know what it is you can write.

Self-confidence. I am therefore I write. Again.  Goodness only knows how that will upset module feedback!  🙂


On another note I was delighted ot be shortlisted for Arachne Press’s Solstice Shorts Festival but disappointed not to get any further. Oh well. We’ll be going up there, anyway, as the day seems interesting, I love vocal reading and I am also fascinated by the contents of the Greenwich Maritime Museum and Observatory.

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2 thoughts on “Only you can know what you write

  1. Ian is great on voice and really helpful, I thought the fact that he admits he doesn’t know everything refreshing too, so you don’t worry about having to do every single thing he says or you’ll fail! Great module. Wish I could do it all over again!

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