Sunday, July 12, 2009

Finding the Right Voice

The biggest problem I've been having lately with my Isis story is finding the perfect voice. I'm nearly there. And occasionally I'm right on. Then I might spend the next day rewriting and realize that I completely wasted all of that time. The voice isn't strong enough in my writing. So that has been my struggle lately. It takes me a few minutes to get into that voice, sometimes it takes more than just a few minutes.

At the writing conference I went to in June, there was a writer, Kristi Stevens, in my group who's work had an awesome voice. It was totally snarky and fun, but best of all it was carried throughout the work. I asked her what her tips were to maintain such a strong voice. She told me that she would sit down and write about something not related to her book, until she was writing in her main character's voice. I

Well I'm going to try to do that this week. I want every minute I spend tweaking the voice, and rewriting to count. I'm also going to post progress reports each night. These posts won't include a lot of information, I just need the added accountability. Really need it, since I want to be done very soon.

I was talking to someone in my writer's group this week about whether or not she really wanted to publish, or if she was just writing to write. It's an interesting question. First it is quite an accomplishment to have written a novel. There are a lot of people who want to write a novel. A small percentage of them actually do finish. And then a smaller percentage who go on to get published. At the writer's conference and among the blogosphere it is common to hear about the throw away novels. (Actually the ones you have in a file on your desktop or hidden under your bed.) You know the ones that will never see the light of day.

For me, personally, I'm not just writing for me. Ultimately yes, I'm writing because I want to, that part is for me. But I do want my book to be read by other people. That's the ultimate point in the entire exercise. If I was writing just for me, I'd have been done at that first draft. I like telling stories. I like reading and getting wrapped in stories as well.

My husband and I were also talking about being a career novelist versus being a superstar or a one hit wonder. Now it would be nice to get that huge advance and all that wonderful PR backing from your publisher. I'm not going to lie about it. With those big advances come big expectations. A lot of pressure is on you for your next book, and so on. What if your first book doesn't sell out the advance, it's a lot harder to get a good deal. If you are writing a series, what do you do when you are done with the series? Is your career over or not? Many people look at J.K. Rowlings or Stephenie Meyer and wonder if they will come out with more books. (I'm hoping it's a yes.)

Then there are the people that started out with smaller advances, and then grow steadily bigger. At the writer's conference my instructors, Tracy and Laura Hickman, talked about how what looks like overnight success really isn't. Usually the writer has been around publishing for about ten years and then suddenly breaks through in a big way. Once they have the big hit then people go to their backlists and read books. For these people you already know that they will likely keep writing and be able to sustain it because they have that track record. Meg Cabot with Princess Diaries comes to mind with this one. Suzanne Collins also had another series before Hunger Games.

So while I'd like the huge advance, the pressure can be overwhelming. At this point I think I'm just going to be happy when I sell my first book. The size of the advance won't be as important as the fact that I'll be a published author. I'd also like to be able to keep writing for the rest of my life. Silly I know, but I really want this to be my career. I've just got to break through first.

So how do you feel on the career novelist versus superstar front? Would you rather have the big advance and all that pressure, or a good advance with a nice amount of backing but not so much pressure?


L.T. Elliot said...

Kristi's blog is: (just in case you wanted it.) =]

For me, I want the career too. The advance would be nice but I'm in it for the long haul. I want to write for as long as I have breath. I know you're going to make it, Mim. You're an EXCELLENT writer and whether you make a splash up front or slowly wade into the pool, I know you're destined for great things. =]

I hear you about voice. It takes me a while to "warm" up to some of my character voices and even longer when I have to switch between them. I'm hoping it gets easier with practice. What do you think?

Cindy said...

I definitely go for the career writer way of doing it. You make a good point about the superstar aspect of it. It IS pressure to do well with your first book. And even more pressure to follow up.

It seems much more appealing to gain momentum and work up to a healthy (and hopefully prosperous and successful) level of writing. Not only do you gain knowledge along the way and have the opportunity to grow a lot, but you gain respect and hopefully some long-time followers who like your work for what it is.

Mim said...

Laura--I know that by the end of a novel that my writing is always a lot better than at the beginning. I think that sliding into the voice should get easier, but switching back and forth would be hard to do. I'm sure it would get easier with time as well.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I obviously have dreams of great success, but realistically I shirk from the idea because my family is my main thing right now. I am all about just getting in the publishing world right now. Ha, ha..."just " getting in, like it's that easy. Well you know what I mean.