The Author’s Voice

The Author’s Voice

I recently read “The Fire in Fiction” by Donald Maass (Founder and President of the Donald Maass Literary Agency) and in one chapter he discusses the voice of your novel, something that new authors often struggle with. Donald Maass has this advice to writers:

“It is when the words on the page demand that I, the reader, take notice that I begin to hear the author’s voice. It isn’t words alone that do that, I find, but rather the outlook, opinions, details, delivery and original perspectives that an author brings to his tale.”


When I read that, I immediately was reminded of a workshop I attended at the 2008 World Fantasy Convention. I dug up my notes from that workshop conducted by David Morrell, called “The Author’s Voice”. Back then a few things really hit home with me and I thought I’d share some of these points in case it helps anyone else.

David Morrell said early on in the workshop that the most important thing you need to do in your career is be yourself. Wow! Simple, but so important when you start worrying about who is going to read your work, what genre label it will get, who is going to want to represent you or publish you if you write this way or that way. Be yourself! Okay, got it.

He also said that most people have a dominant emotion that controls them and how they view the world, his being fear – hence his very scary horror novels! In the workshop he said, “You have a ferret inside you and it doesn’t want to be found”. You have to get as close to it as you can, and that will be what you will write. Whatever it is, you have to figure it out.

He emphasized you have to trust your ideas, your daydreams, pay attention to that. Another point he made was, “the story is always right, it’s the writer that’s wrong“.

Most importantly for me, he said, you better have a damn good reason for writing your book. Why are you writing it? Find the books that you were meant to write, he said.

How do we do that? I think in my short experience, it mostly comes down to trial and error combined with a reading of and feeling out other author’s voices as well as a lot of soul searching.

Bonus: David Morrell’s keys to getting published:

  1. Talent
  2. Discipline
  3. Determination
  4. Luck

Have you found the books you were meant to write? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Sandra with David Morrell, WFC 2008

* David Morrell is the author of over 32 books, a co-founder of the International Thriller Writers organization, a three-time recipient of the Bram Stoker Award, with eighteen million copies of his work in print and his work has been translated into twenty-six languages.

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