Tag Archives: Writing voice

I love to read, but…

Yesterday, my writing friend, author Holland Rae, wrote a blog post titled  Why I DNF. I highly recommend you click on that link and read it.

Now, for those of you who don’t now what DNF means, it stands for DID NOT FINISH. Anyone who has judged the RITA awards has seen these 3 letters mentioned over and over again the past year in the judging instructions and online. To the regular world, the letters are for readers who have failed to finish a book. Not because of time constraints, but for reasons that run the gamut from not being on board with the subject matter, to hating the mealy mouthed, weak heroine. I’ve picked up books after reading the back blurb, thinking I was getting one story, and when I started reading, was given an entirely different one. This kind of publishing bait and switch isn’t common, but does happen. I think I’m getting a romantic comedy about a run away heiress and the private eye sent after her to bring her back, and once I get into the story it’s really about a spoiled bitch who doesn’t deserve to live, or the hero is a misogynistic bore.

I stop reading. Really, I’ll never get that hour I wasted back now and don’t feel I want to invest any more of the little time I have left to finish the dopey story.

I picked up a book recently by an author that I’ve read before and enjoyed and that was touted as romantic suspense and there was – literally – nothing suspenseful or romantic about the plot. The story  crammed as much sex into the pages as the author could while the h/h were being followed by a stalker. Sex in a tiny car, in a public bathroom ( yuk! Just…yuk), under a desk, in a closet. If the book had been marketed properly and not labeled a romantic suspense, I might have passed on it at the get-go. I have a large list of one-click authors, though, and she was among them, so I never really delved into the blurb.

I’ve stopped reading books and tossed them into the recycling pile, not even the donate to the public library pile because I didn’t think anyone deserved to waste their time on  poorly written, boring stories.

Judgmental, thy name is Peggy, I know.

In Holland’s well written article, she states,

  • “I…will finish problematic or frustrating reads because it teaches me how to avoid making the same mistakes. As an author, I think it’s important to read books that aren’t perfect so we can perform more effectively in our own stories.”

That is such a valid point, and I agree with it 100%…in principle. When I was first starting out in my fiction writing career, I did commit to finishing all the books I read, even though some of them were awful. Learning what not to do is as important as learning what to do, and this was my validation. Nowadays, though, I simply don’t have the time to devote more to a book that just hasn’t captured me in the first 3 or four chapters.

The deal breakers for me about whether to DNF a book or carry on til the end to see if it gets any better ( and really, haven’t we all done that?) are as follows:

The characters curse a lot.

I know this is kind of dumb, but I hate watching a movie where every other word is the f-bomb. Use our beautiful language to paint a picture, writers, and not depend on expletives to do it for you!!

The sex is all Insert A into Slot B, lather, rinse, repeat. 

I was a Registered Nurse in my before-writing life. I know how sex works. I don’t need an anatomy or a causal lesson in how to do it. What I do need – what I crave – is reading about the emotions the people involved in the act are going through while they are…acting.

Cruelty as a plot point. We’ve all read the redeemed hero. I happen to love a redeemed hero. What I don’t love – and what no one should – is a hero who starts out sadistic, mean, verbally or physically abusive, caustic, or nasty and then magically  – through the love of the heroine, someone who comes along to show him how to love for the very first time – changes into a sloppy puppy without ever finding out why he is the way he is. Dumb, just…dumb and lazy writing. I’m tossing that one down in chapter one.

Vapid, walk on secondary characters. 

 

(Holland and I agree on this one.)My real-life friends are fully formed human beings with working minds, opinions, and thoughts. They have jobs, families, hobbies, things they love and  things they hate. They were not put on this earth to walk into my life, act as a sounding board for my choices, and then walk out again. Another toss in the recycle pile if I find this in a book.

Voice.

(this is another point I have in common with Holland). I like to read books written in all points of view. First, third, revolving, omniscient. If the story is solid and the characters are well formed, the voice (or  POV) the story is told in shouldn’t be a negative factor. I know someone who says he/she never reads anything that is written in first person. Suffice it to say she isn’t reading anything of mine, then. But back to my point. If a writer has decided on telling his/her story in first person, that characters’s voice better be the best one for the job. I don’t want to read an historical romance in first person where the heroine states, Lord Suchanass was a total tool last night at Lady Fatass’s shindig. Um…no. Just…no. That’s a DNF straight into the garbage, never mind recycling. Having said that, if an author is going to use revolving first or third person, she/he better make sure the person speaking is immediately identifiable and doesn’t sound like every other person in the book. I’ve truthfully had to start a chapter over because I thought I was in the heroine’s POV when I was actually in the hero’s. There was no distinction between the two voices. That’s just poor writing at its core, peeps.

I need to own up to this: my DNF pile has grown exponentially as I’ve had more of my own books published. As stated, I simply don’t have the time to waste on a book if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do on page one or in the first chapter: capture the reader’s ( ME!) attention. I hope I’ve learned to write that way. I’d hate to be on anyone’s DNF list/pile.

If I have been on yours…have pity on my fragile ego and don’t ever tell me! I’m better off not knowing.

~Peg

When I’m not reading you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me// Triber// BookMe // Monkey me //Watch me

Here’s the link to my TELL ME ABOUT YOUR DAMN BOOK podcast interview, just in case you missed it: TMAYDB

and the link to my recent interview on NewHampshirePublicRadio

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

#MFRW I don’t like your voice….

The prompt of this piece is the worst writing advice I’ve ever gotten. I’m gonna share that, but a little backstory first so you can understand why the advice was the worst!

I’ve been searching for a literary agent since I started my journey in publishing. Haven’t found one yet but it’s not because I haven’t tried. At every conference I attend that allows agent pitches I sign up for a spot. In the past three years I’ve pitched myself and my work to 9 different literary agents. 6 were NYC based, 2 were from California, and one was from the NorthWest. They’ve all been industry  pros with great author pedigrees and clients,  but none of have them have offered to represent me. They’ve all asked for me to send them my work, which I have. Now remember, I’ve pitched to 9 agents. 4 never bothered to contact me back after I’d sent the work and waited the allotted 30 then 60 days for a response. When I did re-email them, no responses. 4 sent me form rejection letters within 15-30 days after I’d mailed my CV and work, not commenting on what I’d sent. The last agent I met with was last year. I’d actually connected with her via email  prior to the conference and she’d asked me to send her my work right away so that she could get a feel for what I wrote before meeting me. I complied.

I met her face to face for an allotted 15 minute meet/pitch and the first thing she said to me was “I don’t like your voice.”

 

I knew she meant my writing voice, not my actual voice voice. Even so, that was a bit…harsh as an opening line. She went on to say she’d read 5 pages of the 30 she’d requested and couldn’t get past the way I wrote. There was nothing technically wrong with it, she said, just that it was unappealing.

Huh?

Okaaaaaaaaay. This had taken exactly 15 seconds of a 15  minute space. What was I supposed to do? Sit there and just stare at her until time was up? Stick up for myself? Cry?

 

I mean really. Talk about how to hurt someone’s feelings. Only, mine weren’t hurt, surprisingly. No, I was feeling something else entirely.

When I get really mad I tend to get very quiet. Deathly so. People around me have remarked that me, quiet, is terrifying.

 

I was so stunned by what she’d said, I couldn’t think of a response. That silence, I think, prompted her to say her next thing – the worst advice I’ve ever gotten. “You should think about changing your voice. Experiment with something different, because I just don’t think you’re going to sell commercially sounding the way you do.”

Huh?

It was apparent to me that she hadn’t read the publishing CV I’d sent along. Last year I had already had 8 books traditionally published and had contracted for 3 more. So without an agent I’d already sold 11 book to publishers. If she’d read that she would have known that SOMEBODY liked my writing voice enough to publish me. 11 times. Traditionally.

 

Again, I stayed silent and smiling, even though I wanted to stick my tongue out at her and say, “so there!!” I know. Real mature. By now I knew even if she offered me a contract ( which she didn’t) I wouldn’t sign with her. If you have an agent you want her/him to be on your side, have your back, and promote you and your work and strengths. When I continued to stay mute she said, “Well, I have a lot of people to see today. I’ll be making decisions on who I want to take on, what work, and such, so  I’ll get back to you within a week or so with my decision.”

Huh?

Hadn’t she just told me my voice was horrible and that I’d never sell commercially? That certainly didn’t sound like she wanted to represent me, does it? I couldn’t take it another minute. I stood, shook her hand and said, “thanks for meeting with me. Enjoy the rest of the conference,” and I bolted before she could say another word.

Weird, right?

Do I really need to tell you she never, ever, got in touch with me again? Not even a form letter.

Like I said: weird.

So that advice –  to change my writing voice – was simply the worst piece of writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Who would say that? WHY would you say that? Each writing voice is unique; distinctive; individual. I could understand that she didn’t like mine. You can’t please everybody. But as an industry professional to actually tell me to change something that’s so inherently part of me is like asking me to change my DNA makeup; my height; my personality. Would you ask Dr. Suess not to rhyme? Would you advise ee cummings to capitolize?  Make Janet Evanovich ditch the humor? Good God, would you ask Jane Austen to stick to writing letters and give up on the whole fiction thing?

Needless to say, I am still on that quest to find an agent. Preferably one who likes my voice.

Since this is a blog hop, click on the other authors in this challenge and see more example of bad writing advice!

 

13 Comments

Filed under #Mfrwauthors, Author, Contemporary Romance