What’s my voice again?

Here’s a new one on me – at an editor’s request, I’m rewriting the ending of a story.

The details aren’t that important: they felt that the story jumped off the rails at one point, and gave me a conditional acceptance if I agreed to come up with a new ending. After listening to the editor’s ideas and giving it a bit of thought, I outlined a new climax with forty percent more explosions.

Mutual happiness ensued.

So far so good. Then I got to the part where I had to start writing. That’s when I ran into an unexpected problem.

Writers talk a lot about Voice. As best I understand the concept, it’s a combination of writing characteristics – prose style, sentence composition, character traits, dialogue tics, themes and motifs, and so on – appearing frequently enough in a writer’s work to become recognisable to an attentive reader. (Mine probably involves overuse of compound sentences and brackets, far too many qualifiers and adjectives, and complaining).

The story in question uses a heightened style, floral and melodramatic even by my usual standards. In the three years since I wrote it, I’ve learned a lot about how I write, and this story represents an approach I haven’t gone back to in some time.

(I hasten to add – it’s not a bad story by any means. I’ve enjoyed revisiting it, and I’m confident it holds up. I definitely won’t make the same claim for all my older work).

It’s hard, getting back into the mindset I had when I wrote that story. I remember the circumstances. Most of it was written on a very lovely, very loud spring holiday. I’d just started on therapy for my sleep apnea; I was more alert and cheerful than I’d been in years. And I was writing whatever I felt like. It was fun!

Trying to get back into that headspace has been a challenge. Writing sessions have been slow, almost painstaking. I’m agonising over every adjective choice, constantly weighing up whether I’ve hit the right notes of earnestness and pomposity in the character voices. And right now I have a cold threatening to blow my face apart from the inside. That’s not helping!

In the end, though, I have two things I can trust: first, I wrote it once, so I’m prepared to believe I can write it again.

Second, I have a deadline. Those are pretty useful for focusing the mind, I find.

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