How To Establish Your Writing Voice

Yesterday, a strange series of events happened … all in the perfect order to cause my daughter, Ness , to have quite a fright.

First off, I was mowing the lawn, and promptly got the mower stuck in a muddy section near some woods. So I’m trolling the garage to find chains, anything, that I can use to pull it out using our van.

Meanwhile my son captures a black snake. Generally these are harmless, and in fact beneficial in that they eat the rodents skittering around the outside of our house… But this snake was in the corner garden, and it was huge… nearly four feet long.

And it was pretending to be a rattler , shaking its tail and striking out… So we put the thing in a bucket, stuck a make-shift lid on, stacked up four bricks to hold it inside, and went to pull the mower from the mud. Mind you, we’re planning on letting it go … away from the house.

So, after hooking up the chains, my son climbs in the driver’s seat of our van, and I get on the mower.

It was just at that wrong moment that Ness came out to see the snake … right when we were highly distracted.

So she did what any normal, brave, unattended nine-year-old would do … She took off the first brick… She took off the second brick.

The third.

The fourth.

She took the lid off…and screamed!

The snake rose up.

Ness flew horizontally across the driveway, skinning her knee badly.

You see, she thought it was a small snake.

So, after comforting her and helping her back inside, Leighton and I set off to get the snake out of the garage. Considering that our garage is a bit messy, this wasn’t easy, and I ended up having to grab the thing, catch its head before it could nip me, and carry it off to the woods.

Now you’re wondering what this has to do with establishing your writing voice. Well … catching that cold, muscular snake in the bowels of my garage was a bit like trying to catch a writing voice as an author.

And who has the latest, greatest advice on this? … Why, Nathan Bransford, of course, the super-fast uber-agent who wrote an excellent post on crafting a great voice.

The concept of an author’s “voice” is a difficult thing to grasp , and Nathan has caught it, snake-head and all. His main bullet points are as follows, but you’ll have to go read his article to find out what each of these mean:

  • Sensibility
  • Style
  • Personality
  • Consistency
  • Moderation
  • Transportation
  • Authority
  • Originality
  • Authenticity

Oh, and what kind of writing voice do I have? That’s a very good question!

The only direct comparison anyone has given me is when Paige Pendleton over at Authonomy said my writing reminded her of Ken Follet, who is the best-selling UK author of The Pillars Of The Earth, the Eye Of The Needle, and many, many more. I’ve never read Mr. Follet, but after looking into his work, I consider this comparison quite a compliment.

Here is Paige’s quote about MERLIN’S BLADE:

I get it.
I buy it.
I love it.

Smoking story, Robert. This will certainly be going places. You wield it all masterfully. Ken Follet kept popping to mind as I read this. It is rich in imagery and detail, and yet, very tight and clean. I want to finish what is here, but backed with serious admiration and respect.

I still have a whole lot to learn, so all I can say to that is: Wow… Thanks!


Merlin's Blade, published by ZondervanRobert Treskillard is the author of MERLIN’S BLADE, book 1 of The Merlin Spiral, which will be released internationally by Zondervan in February 2013.

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