SMC: Voice

This was a panel given by agent Michelle Witte, who has also authored a couple of books. One is The Craptastic Guide to Pseudo-Swearing, something you children’s, MG, and even some YA writers may find valuable. The other is The Faker’s Guide to the Classics, a snarky version of cliff notes for those who want to up on the classics, but don’t have the time to read them. Having read some of the Craptastic Guide, Witte’s snark is something you’ll find extremely enjoyable. They’re both available to Kindle sample, so give ’em a try.

Okay, NOTES:

She said there’s three parts to writing that form the “story” triangle of sorts:

  1. Voice
  2. Writing
  3. Plot

Two areas of the “triangle” can be bigger than the other. But if one is big while the other two remain weak it may be why your story falls flat.

CHARACTER

Character is the central part of voice. It’s the character who brings voice out onto the page.

“The writer’s voice in a novel generally belongs to a character.” –Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

There are two kinds of voice: the writer’s voice and the voice of an individual book. The main character defines the voice of the book.

Take Mary Higgins Clark, for example. Her novels all sound the same. Your writing is what works for you. Each book should have its own unique voice.

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SMC: Revision and Grammar Class Pt 2

Welcome to Part 2 of the lengthy but informative class on revision and grammar. Annette Lyon taught this class and has a great grammar book out for cheaps at $1.50 on the Kindle.

Let’s get to getting.

QUALIFYING ABSOLUTES

Her hint? Don’t. What do we mean by this? Don’t add these words:

  • very
  • really
  • extremely (etc.)

To these words:

  • unique
  • essential
  • fatal
  • perfect
  • true
  • dead

Either it is, or it isn’t. And unless you’re Miracle Max, dead is dead.

PUNCTUATION MATTERS

She only used one example for this. Are you ready? I thought it made the point quite nicely.

I. Love. How.
When. You. Read.
This. Your. Voice.
Pauses. In.
Your. Head.

Any questions? Okay, moving right along.

MY KINGDOM FOR A COMMA!

Continuing in the spirit of “punctuation matters,” let’s go to commas. Comma placement can make or break the meaning of some of your sentences and if placed appropriately can bring clarity. Here were some examples she used, see if you can spot what’s wrong with them.

  • Through the wall Bob heard a sound.
  • Everyone seemed to be having fun with the exception of Sally.
  • Did you know that Tom? (The rule: always have a comma before the name of the person you’re addressing in this type of situation.)
  • Take that migraine!
  • She gasped at the sight of David in the cloakroom hanging his jacket on a hook.
  • Let’s eat Grandma.

Make sure your readers are able to understand what you want to tell them by paying attention to commas.

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Win the War? Wait, There’s More!

editingseries

So let’s look over everything we’ve accomplished in the series so far:

  • Proper manuscript formatting is important.
  • Let your manuscript get cold before diving into major editing.
  • Read aloud to edit, read backward, switch fonts—change it up so you can see the errors.
  • Word economize!
  • Let other people read it. Friends, family, beta readers, writers groups, conferences. Get as much feedback as you can.
  • Get thick skin. Respond with dignity and grace to feedback.
  • You’ll probably have to rewrite. Accept that as part of the process.
  • Get some cred by entering contests. Also get some professional feedback this way.
  • When it’s time, consider working with an editor—especially if you’re self-publishing.

It always kills me when published authors say, “Hey, I get paid to make stuff up.” As though that’s all that goes into it. I guess they’re smiling at what they get to do for a living. But make no mistake, as I’m certain those of you who’ve been through this process already, writing is hard work. It’s some of the hardest work you can do. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride of chaos. It’s probably like giving birth and then raising the kid to maturity. There will be moments of joy and moments of pure hell. But in the end, it’s worth it.

WHAT NOW?

Suppose you’ve done all this and then some. Now what? Well, if you’ve really been through tons of drafts and had multiple people look at it, it’s time to get this thing published.

Self-pub. If you’re self-publishing, it’s time to study other self-published authors and see how they became successful. It’s also time to learn all you can about marketing your book to bring it the most success possible. It’s going to take a ton of work, so please don’t think uploading a novel to Amazon will score you instant success. You’ll have to get the word out. But plenty have done it and been successful, so learn from them.

Traditional. For those sticking to the traditional route. Now comes the fun bit we call querying.

Oh, Luke! How’d you get in here?

Anyway, if you thought all this stuff was hard, wait until you get into querying. It’s not unlike novel editing, only more intense because you have to be clever on one page instead of several.

But there are places that can help you out. Visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog to see the good, the bad, and the ugly—often the ugly. Learn what not to do so you do it right in your own.

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Going Pro: Creds & Eds

Welcome to the sixth post in the How to Edit Your Novel series. Now that you’ve put your novel through the ringer, and likely gone through rewrites, it’s time to look at a few options: contests, conferences, and editors.

CONTESTS

books clip artNovels. While entering novel contests can be good exposure for your book, take caution in which contests you enter. Some may take exclusive publishing rights (like Amazon’s recent break through novel contest). Be certain you know what you’re getting into before you enter.

The contests I hope you’ll seek in particular are critique or feedback based contests. Even if it’s only the first few hundred words or first two chapters. For example, awhile back I won a first chapter critique from Aimee Salter. Her feedback was immensely helpful, and it’s something she does professionally.

I know I keep mentioning Pitch Wars, but I got a lot of great feedback from it too, especially from my mentor Marieke. And recently I entered the Cupid’s Literary Connection contest. I didn’t win, but I got helpful feedback there too–especially on my query. Feedback can be just as valuable as a win. Plus you can see how your novel stacks up among the works of your peers.

Short Stories. Whenever you need a break from the novel, or need to put it in cold storage, it’s the perfect opportunity to write something else–flash fiction, short stories, novellas, etc. This is where the creds part comes in. Winning a contest where your work is published in something gives you credentials for your query letter. It’s no guarantee, obviously, but anything you can do to stand out in the submission pile and catch an agent’s eye is worth the effort.

Even if you plan to self-pub, never hurts to be able to say “winner of the…” whether on your book or in your bio. You want to catch that reader’s eye.

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Edit Wars: Rewrites Strike Back

star wars meme editingWelcome to the fifth post in the How to Edit Your Novel series. Let’s see… At this point you’ve had beta readers, you’ve edited, and then the realization hits. This thing needs improvement. Not just typo fixes and quick word re-arranging. I mean substantial restructuring!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Seriously, that’s how it can feel sometimes. What about all that work I’ve already done? I’ve already spent months/years on this thing! Ugh, I want to be published yesterday. Etc. Etc.

But the thing is, how dedicated are you to your story? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be? Really?

I remember coming back from a conference totally deflated. I’d been through a Donald Maass workshop, and I knew my novel needed work—a lot of work. Could I really go through all that? Did I really want to? It took me a few weeks of mulling things over, but I decided it had to be done. So I spent the summer rewriting.

And you know what? I had a much better story. Much better.

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