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Writer’s Voice

Musings On Finding My Writer’s Voice

Prior to becoming a fiction writer, I was a programmer.  The cool thing about programming is the ability to get creative with it.  (Creative? Programming?  What?).  It’s true.  Let me give you an example.  You give five different programmers a project that requires writing code, and I guarantee all five programmers will write it differently.  But all five programs will spit out the same, correct result.  How cool is that?  The way each programmer does it is like their own writer’s voice.  Their code will be shaped by how they learned programming (college or self-taught), what different programming languages they’ve been exposed to, if they’re messy or neat (will they commment their code), if they care about how optimized their code is for a fast execution time, how many years they’ve been writing code, etc.

I think each revision of a manuscript is like the programming example above.  Each draft of the manuscript is different than the one before.  Not necessarily better (although I would hope so), but different.  The same story is being told, just in a different way.  Each draft is in a different voice than the one before, the voice developing, becoming richer, more in depth.  More YOU.

My first (crappy) draft read very much like a Nancy Drew book.  Why?  Because I’d read so many in my youth, and even in adulthood (I do love Nancy Drew books!) that it unconsciously crept out into my writing.  It doesn’t have to be a book, it could have been a TV show I love to watch, or a favorite movie watched over and over.  Regardless, while I love Nancy Drew books, I have no desire to write in the style of the Carolyn Keene syndicate.  And nobody wants to read a book written that way.  Not adults, anyway.  This is not MY writing voice.

Why am I better at writing poetry than fiction?  Why is my poetic voice easily discernable but not my fiction voice?  Because with poetry, I write what I feel, what’s in my heart.  With fiction, I’m trying to write what my characters feel, what’s in THEIR hearts.  That’s a bit harder to do.  Especially if I haven’t developed them well or they haven’t lived in my head for a long, long time, in which case I take the character into the shower with me.  Get to know them.  Get them wet and stick soap in their eyes.  See that they have a birthmark at the nape of their neck.  Discover that they like their coffee black (yuck).  That they hate the color green.  That their first boyfriend dumped them in the most horribly public way.

Then go rewrite those scenes again and don’t take shortcuts.  Hopefully, after all the editing and revising, there will be a manuscript that has laid bare my writer’s voice.

The more you write, the better developed that writing voice will be.  Write about things that don’t require character development (the weather, what you ate for lunch, whatever).  Write all the time about anything and everything.  This will help you see your voice in your writing (not to be confused with author intrusion), to get a better feel for your style.

Here are some links about writer’s voice that I found helpful:

Happy writing!  And if you see my voice out there, tell it I’ve been looking for it and to come home ‘write’ away!

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Traditional Publishing – “The New Vanity Publishing”

Traditional Publishing has become the new vanity publishing.

“Ask The Publishing Guru .com” (http://www.publishingguru.blogspot.co.uk) said it back in July 2010, in a guest post with Scott Nicholson (read it here).  Then Lexi Revellian mentions it in April 2012, here.  Tracey Writes, July 2012 article here.  Huffington Post’s Bernard Starr talks about it here in August 2012.  The Guardian’s James Bridle mentions it August 2012 here.   And today, Alan Peterson over at http://fictiveuniverse.com/ sent out an article about it.

Here’s a quote from Bernard Starr’s article which sums it up perfectly:  “Commentators on the current upheaval in publishing have observed that many authors desperately seek a traditional publisher when self-publishing would serve them far better. Traditional publishing has thus become, in many instances, the vanity choice. Does it make sense?”

It makes perfect sense to me.  From everything I’m reading, and of the horrors of finding an agent that is your advocate, not the publisher’s (read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s The Business Rusch: Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my!), it seems to me that I’m having a very hard time answering the question “why traditionally publish rather than self-publish?”

No agent to take a cut of your profits (or worse).  No publisher that’s going to make you do all the marketing anyway and pay you far less than what you could make if you self-published.  A producer paying you a mere $1 for “all rights in that particular story.  In perpetuity and in the entire universe.”  (Yikes).  Getting published immediately versus many months from now and the possible amount of money you’d lose each month your book isn’t available for sale.  I read an article about this very thing.  Some self-publishing guru (and his name escapes me, sorry) did an analysis of how much money he made from his trad published book vs. another book he wrote that he self-published.  December 2011 (one month!) he made $22,000 in revenue from his self-published book, vs. $20,000 he made on the traditionally published book in THREE YEARS.  Those dollar figures may be backward since I’m not looking at the actual article, but you get the picture.

The more I ask myself what a traditional publishing company can do for me that I can’t already do for myself, I can think of nothing except perhaps give me bragging rights.  Bragging rights to whom?  My family is already proud of me no matter what I do, so it makes no difference to them.  High school friends I haven’t seen in twenty+ years?  Mmkay, who gives two shits?  I’m sure if I was a very popular writer, I could ask a publisher for the moon and get it, but new writers are really struggling to find a foothold with publishers without getting shafted in some way.  Or every way.  I can self-publish an eBook (and/or print book) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iPad and various other formats very easily and quickly.  Sure I would have to jump through a few more hoops for the print book but it’s absolutely doable.

So why are so many of us new writers (read: me) hung up on getting a traditional publishing contract?  I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m resistant to change.  This industry is and has changed so quickly in the last few years, my mindset can’t keep up.  A traditionally published book has always been the pinnacle of success for a writer.  Times are changing but my mindset apparently isn’t.  Perhaps I should use millionaire Amanda Hocking’s success story as my goal – self publish until you become so wildly successful at it that the traditional publisher approaches YOU.  At which point, presumably, I could afford to get shafted.

This struggle to decide between going the traditional publishing route vs. self-publishing with my first novel, Starting Over, is like a tennis match for me.  My decision swings back and forth between the two with regularity.  I think I’m going to let the novel itself decide its fate.  If it makes it as a finalist in the RWA‘s (Romance Writers of America) Golden Hearts contest (a contest open only to unpublished authors, which I entered in mid-November), then I will pursue traditional publishing.  Otherwise, I’ll put it up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. and have total control over its fate, its success or its failure.  Because of the Golden Hearts contest rule, it cannot be published while its under consideration, so in the drawer it goes until March.  Stay tuned!

If You Build It …

Some would call it putting the cart before the horse.

Allow me to preface this post with a little background about myself. I have terrible memory issues. This began occurring right after I had my first child. I believe part of it is being tired all the time, and also due to the literally hundreds of interruptions I get throughout the day. If a thought comes into my head, I need to write it down right away or it’s gone forever. The same is true during conversations – I interrupt people, which I hate to do, but if I don’t interrupt the second the thought comes into my head, that thought is lost in the black hole that is my brain.

I get ideas for writing all the time. I’ve taken to stashing sticky note pads strategically around the house so when these ideas pop into my head, I can jot them down immediately before they’re forgotten. These go in my pocket, and at the end of the day, into a writing notebook.

Bigger ideas, like establishing a writing career, don’t necessarily get forgotten, but they do get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday motherhood. If I don’t nurture these dreams, they will fall by the wayside. Time is a taker, never a giver, and the two years I’ve wasted ‘getting around to’ writing I will never get back.

So what’s to prevent the same thing from happening now?  A spurt of writing and being serious about my writing career followed by another two years of being Super Mom just isn’t an option again. I don’t want to wake up one day, seventy years old, and realize I’ve just frittered away a huge chunk of my life with nothing to show for it. Which brings me back to putting the cart before the horse.

I created this website/blog for the purpose of promoting the books that I haven’t even written in the hopes that time and money spent doing these things will require of me the effort needed to make those books happen. It’s one thing to waste time, but to waste money too is just enough push to keep me going. If I build my website, my brand, my marketing, this ghost of a career, I will write the books to fill that cart and get it behind the horse where it belongs.

This website is my sticky note.

Procrastination

My novel is at a mere 31,000 words, needs to be finished, needs to be polished, and yet here I sit, blogging, looking at Twitter, FB, Goodreads, etc.  Meanwhile, the November 15 deadline for this year’s Golden Hearts contest is looming.

My first manuscript is kind of like a first marriage – just get the first one over with, and you can move on to bigger and better things. Kudos to those of you out there that got the right guy the first time around. I got the guy that cheated. It happens. And just like that first marriage, my heart is no longer in this first manuscript. It’s been two years and I have a million other ideas stacking up, waiting in the wings. But I can’t bring myself to let go of this first one until it’s done.

Time for me to go stick a fork in it.

Beginner’s Blunder

I considered not putting this out there – do I really want people to know just how ignorant I am?  But in hindsight, it’s really quite humorous, so why not?

When I first started writing two years ago, I was afraid I’d read a book and inadvertently get an idea (steal a plot) to use in my own manuscript.  So for the next two years I avoided reading any fiction, especially romance.  Or almost as bad, worry I’d see ideas from my own manuscript already in print in someone else’s book, which would likely piss me off and compel me to go back and rewrite the story differently.

Then I learned that not only is it normal to do those things (read a LOT, steal a plot) but almost encouraged.  Who knew?

So now that I feel free to read romance books again, I wonder what effect that will have on my time spent writing.  Will it be just one more excuse to not be writing?  Will I get even more ideas of plots for future manuscripts?  Because I already have a notebook full of other ideas just waiting to become a story.  I wish I could clone myself and have multiple manuscripts going at once.  Too bad I can’t just sell ideas for a living!

Where Am I?

A kidnapping.  Gunfire.  Two murders.  Arson.  Graffiti.  Hate crimes.  And oh yeah, sex.  Where am I??

Actually, this is all going on in just the first half of the romance novel I’m currently reading.  That plus the protagonist finds out she was adopted.  Who knew so many things could happen in the space of just a few days?

I think in Chicago they call that “Tuesday.”

The Write Stuff

My journey writing romance started two years ago.  With two toddlers under my wings, it’s been difficult, to say the least, to find time to actually work on my first manuscript.

My writing day goes something like this:

Sit down with my cup of coffee and my notebook (yes, I’ve discovered I prefer handwriting to typing on my laptop).  Read the last paragraph I wrote yesterday.  Get up to get the kids a drink.  Sit back down, reread that paragraph again.  Get up to change a diaper.  Sit back down to read that paragraph again.  Get up to help the kids brush their teeth.  Make yet another attempt at that paragraph from yesterday.  Get the kids a snack.  Forget the paragraph, just think of something to write.  Write two sentences and get interrupted in the middle of the third.  Read a book to my son.  Get back to writing only to find I’ve forgotten what I was going to write.  Rinse, repeat.

So … my manuscript sits at a mere 15,000 word count.  This, after two years of writing.  At this rate, I might finish when the kids graduate in 2024!