Your ‘voice’ is polished. It took years…and years…and 100’s of queries. So why haven’t you been snapped up by Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent? And where the hell is that 6 figure deal??? I mean, you’ll even take a 5 figure deal…or a 4…hell! If it means that your name is immortalized on a bookshelf you’ll take $10!

So what’s the problem? Your masterpiece is…well…it’s a masterpiece! There are a few probable causes. Let’s list them off together.

1. Your manuscript isn’t the masterpiece that you think it is. (Harsh? I know. But sometimes we have to consider the possibility).

2. Your manuscript is filled with grammatical errors, and Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent rolls her eyes after 2 pages (I know right! She loved the query and requested a partial. She HAS to love it – wth!)

3. Your manuscript is polished, beautifully written, and the concept is fresh…but Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent kindly rejects your partial with the following, damning, and confusing words: “I just didn’t connect with (insert your kick ass protagonists name here!) in the way that I had hoped.”

And the bell tolls. So what the hell is going on?  Voice.

That’s all there is to it…but guess what? There are two completely separate kinds of Voice – and you have to master both. (Is your mind blown? Because my brain exploded when I put two and two together).

It took me a very long time to figure out my Voice – or, (allow me to clarify) what I thought was ‘Voice’. As it turned out, I was had only developed one half of the whole. My Writer’s Voice…and unfortunately, it’s very unique to the writer. Emulating an author that you admire could severely backfire. Here are some of my own examples below.

Lack of Voice – Excerpt from 4 years ago:

Not really wanting to go to the party, she stepped into the bright tiring room, wearing her brand new dress, and squinted. It was too bright.

Developed Voice – Present Day:

Draped in a newly designed silk dress, the tiring room proved too bright for Netty. A thousand candles illuminated the party; banishing that afternoon’s confrontation to the damned shadows.

Verbose? Yes, I am. But that might not be you. A Writer’s Voice is extremely personal, and a reflection of who you are.

Naively, I thought that my Voice would be enough. That my prose lilted, and that my storytelling skills would carry the manuscript.

And then realization hit – like a ton of bricks. Honestly, it knocked the wind out of me. Character Voice – two of the scariest words in the English language (to writer’s at least).

What in God’s name does it mean? Of course my characters have a voice! They’re complex, and well thought out, and, and, and…and.

In order to transform from a writer into an author (oh yes…there’s a definite difference, and I’m certainly not there yet), we must first become actors.

Now, I’m not talking about an Academy Award winning actor, but like the Hollywood elite, we have to get into character.

You need to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Who is your protagonist?
2. Who is she/he?
3. What kind of personality does she/he have?
4. How did her/his life shape the person that she/he has become?
5. What’s her/his trauma? (Everyone has a trauma – daddy issues, mommy issues, sibling issues, food issues, self-esteem issues etc.)

Congratulations! Now you have a character snapshot! Let the work begin!

Example Without Character Voice:

Though she was glad to finally be moving out and heading to college, Laura would miss her family. Truly. The house had always been crazy – and why wouldn’t it be? Twelve girls shared two bedrooms!

Example With Character Voice:

The Smith house was nothing if not claustrophobic. Every time one of the sisters moved out, Laura’s parents made good use of the ear muffs that she had given them for Christmas – ten years before. When prime bedroom real estate went up for grabs, the frenzy that ensued was always fraught with an awkward kind of tension. Her Mom called it ‘chumming the water’.

Laura called it: ‘Too Many Girls Squished Into Closed Quarters Syndrome’. Sighing, she closed her eyes. After tomorrow, her bedroom would be up for grabs. Laura had made it to – wait for it – Harvard!

Both examples paint the same picture. Laura is going to college. Laura has a LOT of sisters (poor dad!). The house is a little insane. Laura would miss her family.

But, which example would appeal more to Ms. Big Shot Literary Agent? The second one. Hands down. In the second example, we learn about Laura. The writer has gotten into Laura’s head. We learn who she is, who her family is, and we really get a feel for where she came from. The writer translates Laura’s thoughts onto the page – how she would think about things – but the writer tells the story in her/his own way.

Even though the excerpt isn’t in the first person, we feel connected to Laura. Any reader that has had to share a room – or any reader that couldn’t imagine having that many siblings – will immediately feel something tangible when they read those sentences.

Voice is complicated, and personal, but just keep on trucking. You’ll get there eventually. I hope that these examples can help someone else out there. I’m still on my journey, and I’m still developing my skills, but always remember: You will never be perfect, and you will always be learning. If you ‘know it all’, you will never succeed.

Signing off for now!

Until Next Time!

Come follow my madness on Twitter  –   @Maria_Tureaud

Take It On The Chin.

Never give up. Never surrender.

These are the phrases pinned to our refrigerators and vanity mirrors, the words we share on Facebook…and the heartfelt mantra chanted over and over again as we rock back and forth in our office chairs like the crazy old cat lady of lore. We. Are. Writers.

And good dear GOD do we know all about rejection!

This isn’t my first rodeo kiddies! Years writing ‘The Masterpiece’ (we’ve all written one!), months perfecting the synopsis and dreaded query…in the hopes that we might get that *PING!* in our inboxes after weeks of waiting for…*Air Quotes* …’The Response’ (cue creepy Halloween-esq dun dun duuun).

It’s terrifying. Days and weeks go by, until – at last – you stop jumping at every ping, and you quit checking your e-mail every five minutes. The pathetic truth sets in – ‘The Masterpiece’ is not actually a masterpiece (*sadface*).

This was me three years ago. On the verge of giving birth to the love of my life (my actual son…not my book!), I queried the literary world like a woman on a mission. It was my first time out of the gate, and…you know…this was ‘it’!

A partial request here…a full request there…things were looking up!! But in the end…nothing. I couldn’t understand it. I couldn’t believe it. What had I done wrong?

It wasn’t until I received some pretty damning feedback from a reputable mid-size publisher (I had truly given up on finding an agent by then) that reality hit home. I had it all wrong, and my attitude was backwards.

After that golden e-mail (I didn’t think it was so ‘golden’ at the time), and the birth of my baby boy, I realized that I needed to take a step back. Relax (with a screaming newborn), and find myself a little. Find a new subject…and I did. Two separate novels that I just couldn’t finish…because ‘The Masterpiece’ haunted my every waking thought.

Fast forward to January of this year. I work 50 hours a week and somehow balance parenting with writing novels…and I re-opened that single rejection from 3 years ago and took a very deep breath.

Perhaps it’s my day job (high powered, fast-paced, and doling out a little constructive criticism of my own), but I was able to recognize the fact that I was the issue. Not the agents. Not the publishers. I wasn’t listening. I needed to humble myself if I wanted the damn prize  **Literary Immortality**

Sure, I was reading these letters…but it wasn’t sinking in. So I did the unthinkable. I said to myself (as I’m a very important person in the real world *cough*)…what would I advise, if someone handed this to me?

The answer? Scrap the entire frigging book and start at the end. So I did. 6 months. That’s all it took…stealing an hour here, and a half hour there…to completely destruct ‘The Masterpiece’, and build it back up brick by brick.

The result? Three years ago, my voice was by no means ready. And now? ‘The Masterpiece’ has been re-named ‘The-Let’s-Hope-Someone-Loves-It-Because-I’m-Really-Moving-On-This-Time-If-I-Can’t-Get-An-Agent’. Too long? I thought so too. ‘Card Houses’ seemed to fit a little better, and so far, so good.

Six partial requests, two full request…and plenty of rejection (it’s a good balance really). But I’m not getting excited. My mother always says that ‘expectations are the graveyards of broken dreams’…and she’s right.

I’ll keep everyone posted on my progress…but always remember:

Never give up…and never surrender.

You can find me on Twitter  –  @BuckinghamsBabe