On Voice

“You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head.” –Mike Rich

Hi. Right now, I’m still in the process of perfecting my manuscript for the agent who requested an R&R (revise and resubmit)!

In case you didn’t see my latest blog post, the main feedback the agent gave me was that the voice throughout the piece could be much stronger. From the feedback I’ve gotten from others, I’ve gathered that the voice isn’t consistent or realistic enough. (The whole point of voice in first-person YA is for us to relate with the main character, and it was hard for readers to do that.)

The issue was that I couldn’t really see the problem myself. I’ve spent years scouring over the same words… it’s like when you look at a word for so long it stops being one altogether. I couldn’t figure out what the issue was on my end.

One beta reader in particular was the most helpful in this process. Instead of giving me a bunch of praise with constructive feedback like the rest (which is completely needed too), she called me out on all my shit.

And through her editing just the first three chapters of my manuscript, I already know my issue: I filter absolutely everything.

What does that mean, you ask?

It means the natural way I write is by using, “I feel” statements before saying emotions or much of anything else. Here’s an example of the feedback she gave on the first few paragraphs:

It may seem like an obvious thing, but without that beta reader calling me out, I honestly would have never known.

In terms that may make more sense, I tell more than show. Growing up, I was always taught telling was evil, that we had to show no matter what. But after reading The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass, I learned there is a place for both.

I, unfortunately, do lean too much on telling and wasn’t ever sure how to fix it. I’m not a master at beautiful literary description by any means, and I always assumed that was my problem.

But now, now I finally have a targeted issue I can home in on. It’s a truly good feeling.

We can get stuck in our own style and rhythm so much when writing that I think we all need a multitude of outside perspectives when it comes to our stories.

I was so scared in the beginning that my writing was trash, and it took mustering up all the confidence in the world to give it to my friend to read. I remember sitting in the high school library with the manuscript out on the table in front of us… and I kept glancing around so no one would see it. I was so utterly embarrassed that it read like fan fiction and everyone would see my fantasies within it.

Now, after so many edits and years of work, I know my story has an audience. And I promise, it will get to that audience, no matter what it takes.