Finding your feet as a writer can be a difficult task. I certainly remember my first ideas seemed distinctly (and quite possibly illegally) similar to the work of the late and quite wonderful Iain Banks (The Wasp Factory, Complicity). It is natural to emulate the great writers of our time when we take our first steps. Perhaps it is because we read all of their work and would love to produce something similar. Perhaps we always wanted to write and finally their books made us believe that we could do it. Finding your own voice, when all you have done is read that of other writers is often more difficult than you might think.
I know in the beginning the style of my writing was different to my current work. Even my first book, The Loss of Deference is perhaps less ‘me’ than Identity X, the book I am currently releasing. But my voice, my style, the thing that makes my work my own is now much clearer to see than before. But this hasn’t just happened because I have worked out what I like to do and what I like to include. It is also the fact that I have learnt what I want to exclude, and what I have to work on.
Let’s take an example. When I am writing about one thing, I am already thinking about another. This allows my sentences to run into great big poems of ideas without punctuation or pause. Sentences that span different ideas and descriptions tend to feel long and clumsy, and for a reader much less satisfying. I have got better at editing them and dissecting them into separate sentences, and this has allowed the punchier side of my voice to come through. The result is that my work feels faster paced and more exciting.
Something else. I am descriptive, but in the heat of a first draft sometimes these things get lost. I always make sure that I add them in during the first edit, and automatically the writing begins to feel more like me. One of my readers said to me yesterday that she enjoyed the smaller details in my work, details which help to create a scene with smells and sights. These small details create an overall picture, and this is how I personally see the world. I may be the only person who visits Paris and comes back without a picture of The Eifel tower, but you can be certain that I’ll have one of the nuts and bolts that hold it together!
Ben Stone has one aim; discover the cure for genetic disease. He watched his father die and promised himself that it would never happen again, especially to his own son. After his appointment as lead researcher in Bionics Laboratories he begins his desperate research. It takes four years, but he succeeds. He discovers NEMREC, a serum able to reconstruct DNA and cure the diseases that have driven him. It should be the beginning of a new future, but by changing the face of the world, he has unwittingly destroyed his own.
After arriving at his laboratory to find that it has disappeared, he is sucked into a world of conspiracy and betrayal. The Agency wants NEMREC and will do anything to get it, believing it to be the most powerful scientific discovery in decades. But it wasn't just NEMREC that they wanted. The Agency wanted Ben dead, but somehow he survived. His best friend, his wife, and Ami, the beautiful scientist who he has fallen for at work all offer to help him, but each has a different version of the truth. They all have their own agenda, only one of them wants what he wants, and in a world where you are already dead, how is it that you are supposed to survive?
Sixteen eyes gazed back at him, twelve of them through heavy rimmed glasses. They stood there silently waiting for him to speak whilst clutching their plastic cups, shuffling first left, then right. Graham was still holding his pipette, his fingers poised and willing, trained for nothing but repetition and tedium. Even in a moment of glory Ben could see that he was desperate to get back to his workspace. Alan was pulling up a stool, rubbing the base of his back like a woman in the third trimester of pregnancy who had reached her daily limit. Ami stood behind them, her open lipped smile full of reassurance, and she was staring at Ben as if they were the only people in the room. Right now he was the centre of the world. He was the centre of Ami’s world. It felt good to have her approval.
Phil finished pouring the cheap champagne into his own crumpled cup before tipping the remainder of the bottle, which seemed to constitute little more than froth, into Ben’s. He stood nonchalantly at Ben’s side ready for the celebratory cheer, the empty bottle swinging low. As he nodded to Ben to speak, a quick come on, we’re waiting, a bizarre image of Phil crept into Ben’s mind. He visualised a young Cambridge University student with smooth wrinkleless eyes, but behind the same thick rimmed lenses that he wore today. The imagined face was youthful, yet was still topped with a balding scalp, only partially covered by the long hairs that had been left to grow from just above his left ear. So ingrained was the image of the aged Phil, it was impossible to conceive a true and faithful representation of the young genius that he must surely have once been. It was like he had always been old.
“Well, it has been a long four years,” Ben began, pausing for breath after almost every word. It was hard to concentrate over the distracting sound of his wine as it fizzed about in his cup, and the whirring of the air conditioning rattling along above him. His eyes were tired and gritty from the dry atmosphere. It was seven thirty at night and he had been here for over twelve hours already today. He had known by late morning that today would be the day. When the first results came back, he knew it had worked. As he gazed out from behind his own glasses to see them all waiting for him to say something momentous, all he really wanted to do was knock back his bitter and overly carbonated fizz and get out to the bar with Mark.
The truth was that he didn’t know what to say to them. He felt an uncontrollable need to find something meaningful and poignant to say; to mark the life changing occasion with something that would never be forgotten. He had to find something inspiring. Something that would cause each of the scientists before him to regale their families with the story, who would in turn tell the tale to their friends, before soon enough the story would travel with the same inertia as a meteor through space. He felt the weight of all great men before him who had stood on the same precipice of achievement, isolated in the solitary moment before the world learns what has been accomplished. All that kept coming to his mind were the fuzzy static heavy words of Neil Armstrong as they were beamed back from the moon all those years ago. People still spoke about that moment, even kids like Ben who were born years after the event. It was impossible to forget the significance of that first footstep. There was no person in the world that would forget that name, that moment, or those words. His success today may not have the same intergalactic stretch from one celestial body to the next, and would perhaps be more quietly celebrated, but he felt the same sense of weightlessness. This moment was the joy. This moment was his, just before the curtains are drawn to reveal the expectant audience. Stood there in his lab coat and shoe covers in front of a sea of tired faces, he felt as overwhelmed and excited, he imagined, as the first man to step foot on the moon.
“We have done it together. This is our success, and it will change the world. Raise your glasses.” Ben held up his plastic cup, and a series of hands rose up before him, including Graham who had finally relinquished his pipette to the bench.