Voice in writing is an elusive presence; it is the first thing we hear when we pick up a book by a writer whose voice is distinctive and clear. On the page, words are silent, yet we read them and the writer speaks to our inner ear, their tone obvious in every line. Beginning writers are always worrying at the problem of voice, whether they have it and, if they don't, how to get it. It is a difficult area of one's own work to assess, or even discuss, since it is almost impossible to hear your own voice, especially in the early years of writing.

Voice has to do with temperament, with who a writer is and how they view the world, and the ways they choose to express themselves, especially when it comes to setting down words on paper, because writing is a more thoughtful, more polished and revised form of communication than speech. Voice and style are bound up together, and they are formed out of material that is deeply familiar, entwined with the self, which is why it can be so difficult for a writer to recognise the sound of their own voice or to describe their style.

So what is to be done in terms of refining the voice? How is it possible to work on a facet of your writing that, by its nature, remains stubbornly invisible? I think the answer for the writer lies in nurturing their preferences and particularities and taking notice of them instead of taking them for granted. In standing by them, even if the things they like seem to be out of fashion or out of step with the rest of the world. Think of this as a good thing. Because if all writers spoke with the same voice, bookshops would be crammed with a dull, homogenous mass of words that even the most avid readers among us would soon tire of.

What it means to cherish your own style is that not everyone will like what you have written. The more particular your enthusiasms and obsessions, the more you might not be everybody's cup of tea. But the opportunity exists, if you love something ardently, to show others why you love and make them love it too. If your voice is clear and compelling, you will be able to take readers to places they never imagined they would want to go to, and you will hold them there, too. But you can't begin by jostling to lead the line, just as you can't set out to write a best seller. You can only begin to refine your writing voice by loving the things you love, by owning up to your obsessions and taking care to burnish them in your prose.