I've been fortunate enough to be the guest at a couple of writing events in the last few days, and a question which came up at both - as it does at many - was about the author's voice.
How do you find your authentic style, the one that people grow to like and even treasure, and which - so very importantly - distinguishes you from other writers?
Like so many things, the answer is something which sounds simple, but in fact is not. Oh, far from it!
It can take a long time to find your voice, and I fear that some people never truly do so. But for me, the solution is this -
It's a case of being true to yourself. You have to shake off the years of conditioning and influences, and be yourself.
I suppose it's similar to finally finding yourself in life - no longer being what you were taught to be, or think you probably should be, or even what people want you to be. But instead, going ahead and being yourself.
With an author, that means writing how you really see the world and in a way you truly feel. It means escaping from the chains of the teaching at school and college, and the conventions of society and politeness and political correctness, and writing what you think.
It's about facing down the fear of what people will think, being brave and telling it like it really is - in your view, anyway.
Some will love it, some hate it, but hey, that's life - in just the same way that some people will like or love you and others not.
As I mentioned, it's easy to say, not quite so easy to do. It's a big leap and takes real bravery. But if you can crack it, it's so very worthwhile.
It's cathartic, in that it's a sudden release, a revelation of finding that which you sought for so long. And it's hugely uplifting.
A friend of mine has just found her voice. And it's as stark as if a switch has been thrown, to shift from darkness to light in an instant.
The effect it's had is extraordinary - at first a sort of stunned trance, almost like the lingering warmth of being pleasantly tiddly. And then a growing delight at the understanding of what she'd found.
It's a great pleasure to see. Because it's a formative moment in the life of a writer; so very important, and never to be forgotten. A step into another world, a rite of passage, all that kind of thing.
So if you are writing, go out and try to find your voice. It may not be easy, but it's invaluable.
Finally for this blog, a big thank you to the wonderful ladies and staff of The Maynard School in Exeter, for making me so welcome and for playing along with all my games and strange ways of teaching (that's my voice coming through - and it's not a conventional one!) And most of all for being so talented and enthusiastic, and for making me feel what a very fine future this world has.
And also to the folk who came along to the Crime Always Pays panel of the Plymouth International Book Festival, for your excellent questions and thoughts.
Finally, to all of you who came to the events, for being good enough to tell me they helped you and gave you an insight into the writing world - which makes it all worthwhile for me.