• Leigh Hay

Your manuscript, your voice

Updated: Mar 4, 2019

To say I love my morning walks along the river is an understatement. This is my early morning creative time when my brain is at liberty to free range. As I walk, I enjoy listening to music or the sounds of the many species of birds. As I hear Kookaburras, Cockatoos or Bronzewing Pigeons, I instinctively recognise their voice…

Your manuscript, your voice

In a moment of whimsy two mornings ago, I thought about how confusing it would be if these distinctive voices were swapped around – a Kooka emitting a harsh squawk, a Cocky cooing or a Pigeon laughing. I came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be familiar. It wouldn’t be recognisable. It just wouldn’t be right.

These profound early morning thoughts then prompted me to reflect on the work I do as an editor. Over the years I’ve edited dozens of manuscripts, some great, some pretty average and some home-made attempts in much need of repair. And to all these drafts I’ve applied the rules of grammar, sentence structure and spelling, not to mention how to grab the attention of the reader (read here the occasional, polite suggestion to delete irrelevant, copious wafting).

However, there’s one golden rule that applies to editing – the distinctive, unique voice of the author must never be lost, regardless of the number of suggested alts to the text.

So when next you go looking for an editor, don’t let that highly qualified, professional, ever helpful person turn your squawk into a laugh, or your coo into a high-pitched squeak. Before you hand over your unique text to an editor, send an SMS reminder to self : it’s MY book, and it’s MY voice and if the reader can’t hear MY voice, they can’t appreciate just how brilliant I am as a writer.

If there’s one golden rule for emerging writers it’s this : Create your own distinct voice and tell your story as you want it heard. You need your very own signature tune. Any bird knows this.

Leigh Hay

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