To the uninitiated, the main tasks required for writing a book are relatively simple: start, middle and end. But to everyone in the literary world we know that’s not the case at all.
There’s the plot. Oh, and the story arc. Let’s not forget the main character’s lives, how they grow and what they attempt to achieve from the musings that come from your mind. How about the setting? The era in which you wish your story to unfold? It’s a jungle of information that is required to be set in stone before you hit the Black Button of Destiny – also known as the SEND key on your laptop.
So, what do you do to achieve this? You research everything from the colour of the front door that belongs to the protagonist in your tale all the way to the materials used to put clothes on their back. Would an 18th Century damsel in distress have her mobile phone tucked in her back pocket? No.
For me, the most important thing is the voice of the characters tumbling across the page in front of you. How do they come across to you? Are they feisty? Meek? Strong? Why does their story interest you? Do you crave the next page and stay up into the wee small hours reading just… one… more… page?
Do they sit in the bed next to you and say “Oh, now this is a great bit coming up” and snuggle up beside you as you devour the words. That’s what I like in a book, that’s what I expect in a book. I want to hear a voice. I want to share everything with that voice; thoughts, feelings, emotions. I want to become that voice as I read on.
I now need to work on the voice in my WIP. It needs to shout at me and make me scared, happy and sad all in the same crisp, white laptop screen pages I spend days looking at, willing the need to decipher the writing abyss that lies before me.
I need to discover my voice.
I recently attended the launch of Undiscovered Voices 2016 . A prestigious event attended by many esteemed literary moguls from the famous doors that, admittedly, are hard to get open but once you’re in there, there’s no turning back. Foyles in London on a rainy night? Is there any place you would rather be?
You can choose to submit an illustration or a fragment of your blood, sweat and tears aka 4,000 words from a completed unpublished manuscript.
So,what were their words of wisdom? In summary – here are my thoughts on their thoughts on it all:
Do you want to read on? Does it make you laugh, cry or intrigue you to know more? Is the voice really coming through? Immediacy – am I straight into your character? Exposition? Introduce it but ‘don’t bang on’. Really good story to lift you out of a bad day. Original voice. Unique. Be surprised. What does the MC have to say? Why should the reader care?
And my thoughts on the agents words of advice when submitting:
Are we in safe hands with you? What sets your book apart? Is the story fresh and original? Describe the emotion through exemplary narrative. 1st person narrative – don’t ramble on! Don’t submit until it’s ready! Sit on it for as long as you can. Don’t send with spelling mistakes. Agents name to be spelled correctly. Look at other authors they have published. Keep going – there will be a right time. Don’t be too conscious of the writer you want to be, think of the reader. Seeds for the end of the story will be in the beginning. Prologue not needed – start from Chapter 2. 1st page needs to hook. Don’t be afraid to play around with format. Titles wouldn’t sway a deal – would probably be changed anyway. Pitch line DOES sway deal so it has to be PERFECT! Portray danger through laughter!
Easy, right? We shall see, my inner procrastinator answers back. The deadline of 16th August 2015 looms ever closer.
And to finish, my favourite quote from the night…”No-one likes to be 14 so don’t write about that!” as nervous laughter filled the room.
As a member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) this is an amazing opportunity for me to get my voice heard.
Go on, surprise yourself.