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Your Novel’s Missing Ingredient? It Could Be You

Categories: Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Craft and Story Beginnings, Guest Columns, What's New.

I know BB King when I hear him. I may not have heard the song before, but a few bittersweet notes from his Gibson guitar is all it takes to make a positive identification. His sound is unique, an expression of his singular personality. Like a song, a novel is many things. It’s a collection of characters and storylines, dialog and descriptions. But it’s also an expression of the author. When I write a book, I want people to know I wrote it. I want my finished product to be an extension of my personality. Something nobody else could’ve written. BB King sounds like BB King. And I want to sound like me.

GIVEAWAY: Warren is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Flute71 won.)

 

    

Guest column by Warren Hammond, author of the gritty, futuristic
KOP series. The next KOP title (KOP KILLER) comes out in June 2012.
By taking the best of classic crime noir and reinventing
it on a destitute colony world, Warren writes to create dark tales of
murder, corruption and redemption. warrenhammond.net.

 

 

Make no mistake, a novel is firstly about your characters. It’s their story. Your characters need to stay true to their own motivations and personalities. But you’re the one telling their story. You’re the one who needs to connect with your readers so you can bring them back again and again, book after book. Drizzle your pages with your sense of humor. Indulge your own interests and passions, not too much, but enough to allow your personality to shine through your words.

(What are the BEST writers’ conferences to attend?)

Develop your style. Your voice. The book industry is a competitive field. So many voices compete for the attention of agents and editors that they sound like a droning cacophony. You want your voice to stand out like a gem amongst the uncut stones. It doesn’t have to be the perfect diamond. Rough edges will be forgiven as long as the voice is compelling.

Look at your favorite authors, and I’m sure you’ll find a strong narrative voice in their books. They speak through their dialog. They speak through their descriptions. They speak whenever they choose their protagonist’s next challenge. Read a great book, and you’ll find the author’s fingerprints on every page.

So how do you develop a voice? Start with writing what you love. Your voice won’t show through if you’re not in love with your characters and your story. I’m not a believer in writing for the market. Where’s the passion in chasing the hot genre of the day?

(Learn why “Keep Moving Forward” may be the best advice for writers everywhere.)

Write what you love, and you’ll naturally see bits of yourself spilling onto the page. Share your efforts with other writers who will give you an honest opinion. Hone your craft. Write a good book.

Write your book!

GIVEAWAY: Warren is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within two weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Flute71 won.)

 

Agent Donald Maass, who is also an author
himself, is one of the top instructors nationwide
on crafting quality fiction. His recent guide,
The Fire in Fiction, shows how to compose
a novel that will get agents/editors to keep reading.

 

 

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

 

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14 Responses to Your Novel’s Missing Ingredient? It Could Be You

  1. EditorDarla says:

    Writing with the market in mind is only a way to activate that harsh inner critic that can make it soooo hard to get words down on page – and what words do make it out alive, come out feeling and reading as strained. Writing from your essential self allows you to tap into that inner wisdom, that right brain, and let the stuff that’s in you – the soul of your writing – flow onto the page.

  2. KCHerbel says:

    Well said, Warren. I think my favorite works are those where you get a sense of the narrator’s personality. Otherwise, why not read the newspaper?

  3. renemullen says:

    Oddly, this seems to be the one piece of advise that my critique group refuses to utilize and one they tend to fault me for. Voice. Voice Voice. Sprinkle of color. Voice.

  4. flute71 says:

    I love this advice. The novel I just completed is not a genre I usually read, but the way the tale developed, I know it was meant to be.

  5. sonia gracia says:

    It is like living in one town your whole life. You have been there and done that. When someone arrives who has never been, they point out in astonishment what you thought you had already seen. Everyone’s perspective, when drawn out so that others can experience it, is, as this author states, the very reason for readers’ appeal.

  6. geurts says:

    The scariest thing about writing for an audience is showing your face. It’s been good to read this advice repeatedly and from different sources to double-check that my own writing isn’t becoming too impersonal, too academic… boring.

  7. HughSmith says:

    Man! I needed this. Doing some editing and rewriting and feeling like my “voice” was just so much crap on the page. I happened to stumble on this article and it gave me the motivation I needed to meet and exceed my editing quota for the night. Thanks Warren, all the best with Kop Killer!

  8. jmiff328 says:

    Great advice. Id love to win the book. Jmiff328@gmail.com

  9. nash62 says:

    This is great advice new writers can’t hear enough. For you, it’s the sound of BB King’s guitar; for me, it’s Elmore Leonard’s dialogue.

  10. B.P.Elkins says:

    I like to think of it in actor terms. We all remeber Christopher Walken, Harrison Ford, or Zooey Deschenal for their unique voices. The same is in writing. Give a word a unique sound by placing it in an unusual spot or repeating it in a certin characters speech. It gives the writing life and makes the characters memorable.

  11. daddymonkey says:

    I agree with everything you said up above. I personally have always compared a writers voice to speaking a new language. I tell people that if a writer is good they have their own language and even if the cover was ripped off a book you can still tell who wrote it just be reading it.

    Mike Nuttall

  12. mobrien says:

    That is solid advice. Who wants to write about something you’re not in love with anyway? It’s hard enough to make to time to write about the things that do interest me, let alone subjects that are just the current trend. Thanks for the reminder to write what you love, not just what you know.

    Mike

  13. headrotguitar says:

    Finally, someone preaching some individuality here. I’m so tired of hearing people say that writer’s should cave to the ebb and flow of the market when the writer’s who start those trends made it because they produced something that wasn’t being done in their own style and with their own voice. Thank you!

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