Voice is Everything

So today I want to talk about voice. We hear it so much as authors. Voice. The book ‘just has to have it’, the agents say. But you might ask, ‘what is it exactly? Don’t all characters have a voice, after all, they are talking?’ True, but just having a character talk is not voice. It’s what the character demonstrates his or her self to be. Let me explain.

When you sit down to lunch or drinks with your friends and you all start talking, you know that no matter the subject each of you will reveal their voice in the conversation. One friend may shy away from certain topics and you can tell by the way she participates, what she says or does not say. Another friend always has a definite opinion and she expresses it in a defiant way. And yet another makes light of just about everything. Study your friends and then translate that to your character. That is voice.

How do you do this? Examine each of your characters and ask yourself. ‘Who is Johnny? How does he feel about certain things?’ Then give Johnny the mannerisms, words and attitude he needs to pull it off. You need to make Johnny real, like your friends. And he needs to maintain that ‘voice’ throughout the book.

Readers need to be able to get together in book clubs and say ‘Johnny just hates xyz,’ or ‘Johnny is just a joker, he never takes anything seriously.’

How will they know this? VOICE!

Querytopia: Are you there yet?

Now that I’ve finished my first MG book and sent out my first query, I await the forthcoming rejection. However, I am not afraid and look forward to placing it as the first in my inevitable stack that will prove that I’ve arrived.

Honestly, that’s a lie. No one wants to be rejected, but we have to accept the reality. So in order to reach what I call Querytopia, I have been making a detailed list of things that I want in an agent. It’s an exercise that is making me feel as if I am the one doing the inspecting (and it strokes the old ego too.).

First I got a copy of the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents. Next I read all the stuff in there I needed to know as prerequisites, then I began sifting through the list. I narrowed mine down to those that are:

1) Open to new / unpublished authors

2) Represent novels at least 50% (even better if they rep kids exclusively)

3) Are seeking ethnic or multicultural fiction

4) Rep authors I love (or know personally, because I do know a few)

5) Placed lots of books (or at least list what they’ve placed and with whom)

If this criteria is met, I visit the website to see if I like it. (Since I build websites the look of the site is important to me). I read the submission guidelines and make note of things I need to remember. I also note things that are missing, such as specifics for querying, not just telling me to send the query to an email address with no other information.

If the agency has an agent I follow on Twitter, that is a plus because I can troll the posts to see what they are discussing and if I like their personality. I also note if they do #tenqueries to see how they might ‘handle’ my submission (or manhandle it) 😦

If Twitter and FB icons are on the site I like that too. It makes it easy for me to find their agents.

I don’t care about what conferences they attend because the ones I attend tell me who is coming. I do care about things like additional fees for making copies for me ( uh… I think I can make my own copies if you send me a .pdf or zip file).

Once I have narrowed my list, I document everything in a spreadsheet and determine who will be the next lucky agent to get my manuscript! LOL. Flipping the script in this whole querying thing makes me feel so empowered, no wonder people become agents!

Postscript: Forgot the mention that I also check my choices against sites like Predators & Editors, QueryTracker, and AbsoluteWrite to get the inside scoop before I put an agent on the ‘legit’ list. Happy querying?

It’s ON!

Finally! The first day of the 30-days-to-my-first-PB-book session has begun! I apologize to those who read my other blog, writeafterwork because I have neglected it so terribly lately. But enough about that. We had our first assignment today and that is to create our character’s personality. This exercise was not new to me since I did something similar for the characters in my upcoming MG book, but it was still helpful because it forced me to really think about my new character, Bo James Jr. Who is he? What does he like/dislike? What is his motivation? So now I can use the additional information I ‘discovered’ about Bo to make adjustments to the story.

More to come!