On VoiceApril 2, 2009 at 5:21 PM | Posted in Publishing, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments
Tags: passion, teen voice, the clique, writing voice
What’s a voice, anyway, and why do agents value it so much?
Let me begin with a story.
Last last summer. I was young. I read a fabulous series called THE CLIQUE. And I was totally awestruck by just how bitchy the main character was, and just how awesome the collective waste of air called the Pretty Commitee was.
That summer I also discovered writing. And I set out to create my own series. Called THE ELITE, it chronicled the fabulous existence of a private-school clique in LA.
So after spending a year or so on THE ELITE (a 36K whopper of a book), I wrote the query. Got a ton of rejections and a few partials and fulls. None of them ended up in a contract. Still, I held out hope.
Fast-forward to last summer. My last response, from the VP of an international agency, read: “Your voice is well-targeted to your audience, but the plot seems familiar”. It was a rejection.
Not really good news.
However, I kept on writing because my voice showed promise. And if my voice showed promise, all I had to do was to change the plot, right? But I felt like an imposter every time I picked up my pen. It just wasn’t me on that paper.
And then one day, I grew so frustrated that I decided to start a new manuscript. A journal, inflated by figments of my imagination. I didn’t care about writing like Lisi Harrison anymore–I just wanted to get all the pressure out.
So I did. I wrote and wrote and revised it all. And at the end of my 2-hour session, I had fifteen great pages. Fifteen pages that I immediately sent to my beta.
Her response? “Good gracious, girl, it’s really good.”
That was her whole critique. I used to get pages and pages (single-spaced, mind you!) of corrections, of things that didn’t feel quite right. And staring back at me, those six beautiful words, made me realize that I finally had made it. My voice.
I learned that day that you can only discover your voice when you write something you’re really passionate about. Something you’re so passionate about that you don’t care what agents would think, if your parents would take offense at it. You just write. It’s automatic. It happens when you think no one’s watching. It’s the purest form of written self-expression you can find.
Your voice is your own. It can grow, it can mature, just like you. But it’s unique. Just like human voices, it can be music to your ears. It can be shrill. It can be serene or excitable.
What’s most important about all voices, though, is:
They all have something to say.