Thursday, April 17, 2014

Voice and Tone

I'm working on a new project right now (unrelated to The Never Silent) and seeing how I feel about it. Unlike my most recent novels, it's got a dual POV. This isn't the first time I've written two main characters, but it's been long enough that I'm more aware of the individual voices.

Voice. Such a nebulous thing, but so important. A lot of people say they read for the voice. Or, in some cases, not read. An annoying voice can really get under the skin.

Voice is supposed to be unique to a character. It encompasses so much about that person--how they think, how they speak, how they look at the world.

And yet I keep noticing in some of the books I've read a lack of distinction between the individual voices. Surely the characters aren't identical in thought, speech and perspective. But they sound the same.

As I'm discovering, though, it's really hard not to make them sound the same.

For me voice is really easy to change from book to book. In The Never Silent, my main character Henry is a boy from the 1840s. He absolutely does not sound like a boy from today would sound. In my previous novel, the character was a girl from a post-apocalyptic future. Very different.

But I've realized that the voices I write depend not only on setting, but also very much on tone. Is the tone serious? Playful? Wry? Spooky? I don't know about other writers, but I'm finding that I have a specific default voice for each of those tones.

Well, that's great, right? Different tones means different voices.

Only in most cases the tone of a book should remain the same even when the voices change. And here's where I'm running into trouble. The tone of the new project is fun and lighthearted (which, by the way, is a huge departure from most of my other writing). I'm so very tempted to put both voices into my default for that tone.

But that's lazy. I have to concentrate on separating the two.

Will it work? We'll see. Personally I can tell the difference between them, but whether anyone else can remains to be seen.

How do you feel about voice and tone? Do they come naturally, or do you have to work on them?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

It's Thursday, and in honor of "Throwback Thursday" I thought I might try out a new #tbt: an old writing sample instead of a picture.

Unfortunately it seems I have lost the very first story I ever wrote. (Or rather, attempted--it was never completed.) But I do have everything I wrote from my college Creative Writing class onward. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs from one of the short stories I wrote for that class:

She had flowers in her hair. I remember the first day I saw her--the flowers were what caught my eye. I wondered then as I do now where she might have gotten them. I’ve never seen flowers in this town, not even wildflowers. She could not have afforded to buy them, and I remember that they weren’t nice store flowers anyway. They were handpicked from the ground, and they were starting to fade...

She had flowers in her hair. I remember them. They were pale blue wildflowers, and I wondered where she had gotten them. They were starting to fade. I think that’s what I’ll always remember about them. They were pale blue, and they were starting to fade.

It's actually not as terrible as I was expecting considering how long ago I wrote it... seems like ages. I was a different person then (who wasn't somebody else ten years ago?), but I still recognize some of myself in the sentences, if not in the story itself.

Do any of you have early writing hiding in a drawer somewhere to pull out for #tbt?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Catch Up, Part 2

So in the last catch up post, I casually mentioned that there was more to tell regarding my writing. Today I finally get to share...

I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D :D :D :D

It happened, you guys! It really happened!

I am officially represented by Marlene Stringer of Stringer Lit.

Ahem. Let me just repeat that since it's still sinking in for me. I have an agent!!!

Seriously, I keep grinning at odd moments throughout the day. I'm so so thrilled. Marlene is wonderful, and I'm really happy to join the Stringer Lit family.

So how did it happen? Well, recently I swapped query lists with my awesome CP Ico. Marlene was on Ico's list, so I decided to check her out. I liked everything I saw about her, so a few weeks ago, on a Thursday, I filled out her online query submission form. Within an hour or two she emailed me, asking for the whole manuscript of The Never Silent. That Sunday morning I woke up to a request for The Call, and let me tell you, I have never in my life been so happy to get an email! (Also, I was super impressed with her response time!)

We talked a couple days later on Tuesday. It was a lovely conversation--everything I had been hoping for, including the offer of rep at the end. I wanted to jump up and down and say yes right away, but I composed myself, took a few days to consider and then said yes to her that Thursday!

Now, my writing friends probably all know what having an agent means, but I know a lot of my other friends don't, so here's a little more on why this is a big deal:

In the "traditional publishing" model (often contrasted these days with the "self publishing" model, which for various reasons I didn't feel was right for me), many publishers require an author to approach them through an agent instead of submitting directly to their editors. The process of finding an agent can be long and difficult. It usually means sending agents a brief letter (called a query) telling them what your book is about in just a few paragraphs. Sometimes agents also ask for the first few pages (occasionally even the first few chapters) when considering whether they would like to read the whole book. And then often they will read the book but still say no to representing the author.

It's tough, but that's the business. Now I have an agent, though, and I get to move on to the next part of the process--a brief round of revisions and then submission to publishing houses.

So, in simple terms, having an agent does not mean:
-automatically having my book published
-automatically working with any particular publishing house

But it does mean:
-moving one step closer to publishing my book
-having someone who knows the business to approach editors on my behalf

So yes, it's a pretty huge thing for me!

And so my writing journey continues. Thank you to all of you who have been part of it so far. Now I'm so excited to discover what happens next!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Birthday Gift

My husband just had a birthday. I won't tell you which, but I'll give you a hint: it's a bigger number than my own age. It's nice being younger. He hits all the big birthdays before I do, so they don't come as such a shock once I reach them. It's very good of you, sweetie, and I do appreciate it...

Anyway, I have a particular fondness for finding just the right gift for somebody. When I manage to pull it off, the results are unforgettable. If you're familiar with the Love Languages theory, gifts is a pretty big one for me.

Well, this year I wasn't expecting I'd have much time to come up with a really spectacular birthday gift. As much as I love adding the personal touch, it's a little more difficult with a baby. But a few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a picture of a glass that he had personally etched, and I was inspired. Whatever it took, I had to find a way to make my husband a set of etched glasses.

So I went on Amazon. I found all the necessary materials. They came in plenty of time. I opened them up, psyched myself out, and then realized... etching cream is not for messing around! Seriously! This stuff comes with a warning that it can cause severe burns that aren't immediately painful or visible. Worse, if somehow you manage to ingest it, it's pretty fatal (unless you go right away to the doctor for the antidote). Yikes!

But I was not deterred. I spent the evening before his birthday working on the glasses, despite the scary etching cream. And the results were really fun! Here's a picture of the best ones of each of the two sets I made.

For the video game illiterate, that's a Cactuar from Final Fantasy and a Triforce from Zelda.

Some of the others weren't quite so good. One of the Triforces bled a bit, and moreover was on crookedly. But my husband really liked them! He's happy and I'm happy. Hurrah!

Happy birthday, sweetie!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Catch Up, Part 1

High time for a bit of catch up, right? In the haze of no sleep I about gave up on blogging, I admit. There was a bit of a rough patch for four long months until we figured out what was causing us to be up every 45 minutes all night every night. But that's behind us now (hurrah!), so here's what's been happening while I've been gone.


He's really been the front and center of everything for the past eight months. What was life like before him? I hardly remember. It's funny--my husband reminded me that we're coming up on our one year house-versary, and that seems impossible. Didn't we just move in? But the baby being eight months is no surprise. I feel like he's been a fixture of my life forever.

Like every baby he's had his personal highs and lows. He has one tooth. (Speaking of which, when my cousin was learning fractions he called 1/2 one twoth. I look forward to similar adorableness with the baby--not that he isn't absolutely the cutest thing already.) Last week he had his first major cold. He's the most photogenic creature in existence, and I wish I could show you proof, but for his privacy we don't post photos online. The latest cannot-believe-how-cute-you-are thing: when he's happy he tilts his head back and forth like the cutest bobble-head ever.


One of the awesome things about being a new mom is that suddenly I have lots of automatic friends--other new moms! I've met some pretty fantastic people that way. Including the mom of my son's best buddy (the boys are three days apart). She's lots of fun to hang with, and she has the awesome job of house-flipping. She recently took me out to see the house she's currently working on. Lots of potential, but it definitely needs her loving touch. Can't wait to see it when it's done!


I'm continuing my adult fiction streak. Most recently Vicious and now on to Words of Radiance. Can I just say... VE Schwab can write a seriously good everything! Words turn to magic under her pen. Or something. Always very impressed. I will read anything she writes.


Started querying The Never Silent. Have some other things in the works.

More on the writing font soon though. In the meantime, I'm off to spend some more of my day teaching the little one about colors... or maybe just watching him be a curious little eight month old.