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QUESTION: Dear Cathy,
The question that I have been meaning to ask all along was how do I find my own voice in terms of writing? I know that the simple anwser is to practice writing itself. I am working on writing a fantasy adventure story, but the more I read Harry Potter or the Golden Compass Series etc. the more I feel like I am somewhat losing my own immagination, when I am trying to develop it by readingother fiction. Is that possible?

ANSWER: Hi again, P.J.

I don't know that there's a good answer for this. "Voice" is thrown about like it has a definable meaning, when it really doesn't. It's a "feel" that makes a reader recognize a story written by an author. It's the way they put words together, how the characters interact on the page. But it's not something that can be learned, per se.

For example, if you decided to write some fan fic of Harry Potter (and you wanted it to sound realistic), you'd make Harry sound like . . . well, "Harry." He wouldn't get into a physical fight with Mrs. Weasley, but he might with Draco. Goyle isn't suddenly going to tell Draco to go to hell, but he might sabotage something of Hermione's. It's a "feel."

When it's your characters, YOU make the feel. No matter how similar a character you create to something already on the shelf, it's going to have YOUR voice, because you simply can't help it. You're writing the dialogue, and the narrative and the setting. Not Jo Rowling, or Jim Butcher, or even F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's just YOU. So your voice starts from day one and yes, only practice will refine it. You might try to set a "tone" that resembles a tension-fraught Quiddich game, or the high seas of the Golden Compass, but it'll never be exact, because it's YOUR voice.

I know that's frustrating to hear, but it's something that just takes time and practice. Keep at it, and you'll suddenly look at something you wrote, and say, "Hey! This isn't like ANYBODY else's book." Then you've found your voice. :)

Good luck!


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I fully understand and am not offended. I know that you said that a degree from college is not needed to writing a novel. But the classes I know will give me the help that I need to putting the puzzle together. Do you know of anyway of finding literary agents?

Sure! Lots of ways. The first thing you should invest in is a book called "Writers Market" This is put out by Writer's Digest magazine and contains not only lots of agencies and publishers information, but also a lot about how the book industry works. It'll give examples of good query letters, what sort of money you can expect to earn from different kinds of writing, etc. You should be able to find it at pretty much any bookstore (and you might check to see if your library carries it. It's not a cheap book.)

Next, visit the Association of Author Representatives. This is an organization of literary and screen agents who have agreed to abide by a canon of ethics in dealing with authors and writers. They have a TERRIFIC page that explains the relationship between an author and agent. You can find them at:

AgentQuery is another good place. This online resource is searchable by genre, so you can find just the right fit. It's at:

Then check out some of the "watchdog" sites so you learn what to watch for to avoid scams (yes, there are literary agents who are scammers and will try to suck the money from your wallet.) A couple are: (then look down the list for Bewares & Backgrounds Checks)

Hope that helps, and feel free to ask anything else! :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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