Thursday, March 10, 2011

130 Literary Agent Natalie Fischer On Nailing Voice -- And a 1st Chapter Crit

Natalie Fischer has recently moved from the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency to the Bradford Agency. While she isn't accepting submissions yet, she expects to get rolling soon. In the meantime, we've been lucky to have her answer a few questions on the topic of voice, one of the hardest things for most writers to nail down.  She also has a great blog with more information, and she tweets at @Natalie_Fischer.


First Chapter Critique Giveaway

Want to know if your voice is right for your manuscript? For the market? Comment and fill out the form below! To help us celebrate the one year anniversary of this blog (with even more giveaways), Natalie has generously donated a 1st chapter critique for a random winner. We'll draw the name and post it Saturday.


Interview


Question: How would you describe the difference between voice, style, and language in a manuscript?

Natalie: Language is diction: the word choices, the literal language of nationality. Style is the form: short, choppy, flowing, poetic, lyrical. Voice is the personality, the person behind the words that makes the reader forget about the author, and dive into a life. It’s what you remember about the characters long after you’ve forgotten their names.


Question: What mistakes do you see writers make when trying to develop or show a “voice”?

Natalie: I think the biggest mistake is to try and show voice through style or language. Using heavy slang or methods like “Southern dialogue” are annoying, not effective. Voice is a point of view, a perspective that is unique to only one person. It has emotion, history, a sense of place, and senses. These things are shown in unison with style and language, but not reliant on them to be clear.


Question: What is it about a voice that makes you sit up and take notice, and what makes you stop reading?

Natalie: I think what makes me fall in love with a voice is one that I can relate to. What makes me stop reading is one I can’t. Very simple, really, and oh so subjective!


Question: What kind of voices are being done too often or not well enough?

Natalie: I think the most common voice is snarky in tone (and my personal favorite), and the hardest voice to do well is middle grade.


Question: As an agent, what is more important to you: concept, character, action/plot, or voice--and why?

Natalie: Voice, voice, voice! It’s the hardest to fix. If you have voice down, the rest can be thought up.


Question: Name three books that you love for their plot.

Natalie: Am I allowed to use the Harry Potter books – all of them? Is that a cop-out?


Question: Name three books you love for the memorable characters.

Natalie: Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were masters of memorable characters. I’d also have to say Ella from ELLA ENCHATED is one of my favorite characters of all time.


Question: Name three books where the voice blew you away.

Natalie: I’d rather pick a genre: Romance. Romance novels are ALL about voice; from the first page, first sentence, it hits you with a “bam!”

To combine these all up, I think Time Traveler’s wife was the ideal blend of plot, character development, and voice; that elusive “high-concept upmarket” novel everyone talks about. It’s my favorite example for voice, because you can so CLEARLY picture these characters.


Question: If you could describe your ideal book, what would it be?

Natalie: You know, I really can’t say; my tastes change so frequently that the only real answer I have is that it would be one that I can read over and over and over again and still be SO excited about. I will say that someone once asked me what movie would best describe my tastes, and surprisingly enough, THE FIFTH ELEMENT popped first into my mind. So I’ll go with that.


Question: What is on the top of your wish list for 2011?

Natalie: A six-figure deal. ;)


Bonus Tip from Natalie

Last tips on voice: don’t be afraid to let parts of yourself shine through into your characters; those voices become the most real. Explain your character through your unique view of the world, and you can’t go wrong.

130 comments:

  1. Well, I swore I'd give contest-entering a rest, but I can't resist the critique ones!! I need all the help I can get there. lol

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  2. Great interview and so timely. I need to revise my manuscript one more time for voice. I follow Natalie's blog. It's really helpful. Thanks for the contest.

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  3. Excellent interview - and what an opportunity with the contest!

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  4. Awesome interview!! Thanks for the contest :)

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  5. Great interview. I have had some very nice rejections from Mrs. Fischer in the past. Her criticism is spot on. I'd love to win this critique. As she said, MG voice is the hardest to nail. Good luck to all participants.

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  6. Such great information, thank you :-) I hear so many different views on voice, but this one just rings true with me ^_^

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  7. I've been thinking a lot about voice lately, so I appreciated this interview. Thanks for the great contest opportunity!

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  8. Thank you for the interview and for the contest. It is a great opportunity with a great agent!

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  9. What a great interview! Thank you. And thank you and Ms. Fischer for such a great opportunity. I'd love a first chapter critique.

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  10. What a great opportunity! Thanks guys. And a wonderful explanation on voice, language and style. I agree voice is the hard part.

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  11. Fantastic interview! I love your posts. You guys do such a great job keeping us informed on all things Kid Lit!

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  12. I love that she said "Don't be afraid to let parts of yourself shine through into your characters." I don't see how I COULDN'T put the smallest bit of myself into each of my characters.

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  13. Great interview! Thank you so much!

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  14. This interview was excellent, and thanks for the opportunity to win a critique. :)

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  15. Sounds like some good advice. I'll give it a go.

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  16. Excellent interview...it's so great to get inside an agent's head, isn't it? And thanks to you both for the critique giveaway!

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  17. Thank you for this interview, and thank you Natalie for offering up a critique!

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  18. Fantastic interview and I think I just fell even more in love with Ms.Fischer - the Fifth Element is one of my faves too :)

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  19. Great interview - thanks for the opportunity!

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  20. Thank you! Voice it the hardest thing to nail, especially if I try to hard. Hope I'm getting it right!

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  21. I'm learning so much about voice with Natalie's interviews and with your workshop. You all rock! Thanks for supporting us writers by offering wonderful workshops, contests, and guests like Natalie Fischer. :D

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  22. Great interview - and contest opportunity. Sign me up! :_

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  23. Great interview! Every time someone talks about how important voice is, it makes me feel better, because while I'm still agent-hunting, I've been given great feedback concerning my voice. It makes me hopeful and motivates me to keep trying :)

    Thanks for the interview and the opportunity Natalie!

    Happy writing all!

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  24. Um, and I gave my given name when I signed up (it looked official, so I went with my legal name) for the chapter critique, so when there are no comments from Stephanie Marchi, I'm her...

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  25. This was a great post and interview. Voice is definitely the most pulling-your-hair-out hardest thing to get straight.

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  26. I loved The Fifth Element! It was a great combination of quirkiness, visual beauty, and mayhem.

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  27. Hi Marissa and Martina - and hi Natalie

    Really interesting interview. I think the most difficult part of creating a voice, is creating one that is different from your own natural voice - or at least convincingly different. Writing in character is like acting - takes skill and practice.

    :Dom

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  28. Loved the interview! Lot's to think about. Congrats on the new position @ The Bradford Agency. I know Laura's a really nice person. I'm sure you'll love working with her.

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  29. Great interview-Natalie's differentiation between voice, language and style is is very easy to understand. Thank you!

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  31. SUCH a helpful interview! Thanks to Natalie and the ladies of ACP. I'd love to win the chapter critique~ thanks for the giveaway!

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  32. What an awesome agent! Great interview.

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  33. Awesome contest and great interview! Love Natalie's blog :D

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  34. I loved Natalie's answers! I'd also love to win the critique--thank you so much for the contest!

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  35. Happy Anniversary, and what an informative interview and generous offer from Natalie! Thank you all.

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  36. Awesome interview. Thanks for posting. I couldn't resist participating--Natalie Fischer chap crit? Really? I'm in! :D Good luck everyone!

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  37. Great interview, great contest, great blog! Thanks again!

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  38. One of the clearest description of voice I've read. Thanks for the interview and happy anniversary. Many more!

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  39. What an awesome 'prize.' And I love the interview! Thanks for sharing :-)

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  40. Great interview and contest. I'd love a critique to see if my middle grade voice is working. Fifth Element is one of my favorite movies.

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  41. Thanks for the tips on voice and for offering the 1st chapter contest.

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  42. I love contests where there is some kind of agent giveaway. You must have pulled some strings to get it :)

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  43. Wow...great interview! Thanks for the prize giveaway, too :)

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  44. Awesome interview and giveaway. Thanks, Natalie!

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  45. Thanks to you ladies as well for hosting this contest! :)

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  46. Two great blogs, a great agent and advice...How can I not enter this? Can I say that I have the same wish as Natalie for 2011? : )

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  47. This is a great interview! Wow, I love The Fifth Element, too! I made my husband take me to see it way back when we were dating:)

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  48. This was wonderful, voice is so important to connecting with the reader. And thank you for the great contest!

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  49. This is a great interview. I'm going to print out the definition of voice and stick it on my wall.

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  50. Voice is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, so this is an awesome interview and contest!

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  51. Great interview! Voice is the hardest to "get right", but when it is done well, it's magical!

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  52. Great interview! Voice is always the hardest thing to find. Often I write over 10K before I find the right voice for my characters.

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  53. I always knew voice was important, but I never would have thought of it as the MOST important thing. Interesting interview, thanks!

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  54. Oh my gosh, awesome tips! Definitely can't wait to query when you're open to it, Natalie!

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  55. Great tips! And can I say that I love Natalie just because she loves the Fifth Element? Such an under-rated movie. It has a high cheese factor, but still....gotta love it. One of my faves.

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  56. I think voice has got to be one of those elusive things to define but which I rely on to hook me into a story. Lovely contest. I'm in!

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  57. I love the Time Traveller's Wife. Such a fab book. Thanks for the contest :)

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  58. J.K Rowling's gift was to create voice without being in the first person. That is damn hard.

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  59. Voice can be such a tricky thing. Thanks for these tips!

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  60. Excellent advice, Natalie! Voice is definitely the hardest to nail down, but one you do, everything else kind of falls into place, so it's worth spending time on.

    And I love the fact that you love ELLA ENCHANTED!

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  61. Thanks for the interview and the contest! I completely agree with the part about Southern dialogue being annoying - I like a little, but a lot makes it sound like the author has never actually been to the South. I read a YA book (won't say which one) that's set in contemp Virginia and all the girls were basically saying, "Why, I do declare!" I think the author must have written the book after watching Gone with the Wind.

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  62. A great interview and fabulous contest!

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  63. Great interview! That's the best description of voice I've heard so far.

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  64. I've learned so much for this interview! Thank you so much!

    Michael

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  65. Hmmmm.. a six figure deal is on my wishlist for 2011 as well. Coincidence? =)

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  66. Thanks for this! Great explanation of voice. :)

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  67. Awesome interview. I loved the explanation of voice and style. :)

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  68. Great interview, her blog is also an awesome spot :)

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  69. Megan MacijauskasMarch 10, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    Ah, voice. Everyone wants it, no one can define it. Thank you, Natalie, for your perspective. You've definitely given this writer some ideas about what makes a writer's voice shine.

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  70. Are you kidding me? A critique from Natalie Fischer? How awesome is that??? And this interview is sooo helpful. Off to check my WIP now :)

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  71. Thanks for the great look at voice. I hadn't heard someone talk about how voice is different than just language or style, but that concept makes a lot of sense. Thank you!

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  72. Thank you for the wonderful interview--and the great prize opportunity. Happy blogoversary!

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  73. Great tips on voice. I find it easy in some chapters, and much harder in others.

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  74. I love the point about the voice being what makes you remember those characters - so true!! :)

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  75. "Voice is a point of view, a perspective. . . emotion, history, a sense of place, and senses."

    This is brilliant definition of voice. It's so concrete. I've never heard it put this way. Thanks Natalie!

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  76. The interview was helpful. I thought to give contests a break, but this one is worth it.

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  77. Voice is so elusive - seems like most people resort to the "know it when they see it" test. Thanks so much for giving a concrete explanation of what it is!

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  78. Yay! I'm excited about this, love this blog and Natalie Fischer

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  79. Great interview, even better contest. Thanks

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  80. Great interview! Thanks!

    Yes, this post was helpful. :)

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  81. Great tips, thanks for your insight.

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  82. Ella Enchanted was a great book - thanks for the interview, and for the contest!

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  83. Great post. It couldn't have come at a better time. Very excited about the contests. :D

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  84. wow, great opportunity! Voice is such an elusive thing sometimes!

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  85. Great interview, great contest, great opportunity. You kind of rule. :)

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  86. Awesome! Thanks for the great interview. ;)

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  87. Great interview and great contest! Happy blogiversary!

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  88. Great interview! And great tips on voice too (which is, imo, the hardest thing to work on in writing)!

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  89. Thanks so much for giving what you do to the writing community! Great interview. Great prize!!!

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  90. Great interview. Thanks for the contest

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  91. Great discussion on voice. Thanks for shedding more light on the subject.

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  92. I've never been one to reread a book but I am one that will forever be swayed by a personal recommendation. Fifth Element is now in my queue, many thanks.

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  93. I love finding blogs with so much great information--happy anniversary! I blogged about your contest, but I didn't see a cutoff time/date, so I just said you were planning on awarding the critique on Saturday.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

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  94. One of the best posts on voice I've seen! It's such a hard thing to define or even put into words... so thanks! Awesome contest too!!!

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  95. Wow. That is the best explanation of voice I've seen! Most people just say something like, "Well, um, it's kind of just how you write, you know?"

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  96. Great advice and just what I needed right now. I'm editing my novel and trying to get a unique voice down is more difficult than I realized, but this explanation helps.

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  97. This is great article. It's good to know that 'voice' is FTW! I think that's what's so hard about 3rd person POV...how do you combine the author's voice with the character's? So complex, but so obvious when you see it done right!

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  98. Great interview and advice. Thanks Natalie!

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  99. Great interview. Very helpful. I love that Natalie is all about Voice. If I can read a book and not get caught up in all the little things, but have the voice carry me through them, it's a winner! What an awesome giveaway! Thanks and congrats on one year :)

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  100. Wonderful giveaway...Congrats on the blogaversary! Here's to many many more :)

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  101. Great interview, very informative, and thanks for the contest. :) Major WOOHOO for the FIFTH ELEMENT! One of my fave movies.

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  102. Terrific tips and contest - thanks for hosting :)

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  103. What a great interview and an awesome contest!

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  104. Voice is so hard to master! And like Natalie says, it's so subjective...

    Interesting interview. Thanks for the opportunity to win a critique. I need it!

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  105. Awesome opportunity! A first chapter critique from an agent would be overwhelming. Thanks!

    Marie at the Cheetah

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  106. A first chapter critique from a top agent would be a wonderful surprise. Thanks for the contest! Susie

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  107. Ahh, a six figure deal. That's the stuff of dreams! :) Thanks for the contest!

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  108. Comment! Hey you said I must leave one. I am too busy reading all the helpful to be too long winded - today :}

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  109. This sums it up so well: Voice is a point of view, a perspective that is unique to only one person. It has emotion, history, a sense of place, and senses. Thanks!

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  110. Oooh, FIFTH ELEMENT! I *knew* I liked Natalie!

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  111. Loved the interview! Great tips about tracking that elusive voice.Congratulations Natalie on your appointment and the new challenges at The Bradford Agency. :D

    I'm sitting here in my green dress so of course the word verification is gynes! :)

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  112. Thank you so much for this interview. Voice is such an elusive thing, and this post is wonderful.

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  113. I love agent interviews that focus on voice! This one was right up there. Thanks.

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  114. Thanks for posting a great interview with lots of tips on voice. Voice is very subjective, but it's also the major element in what sells the story.

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  115. Voice is so crucial...and so difficult to achieve if it doesn't come naturally.

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  116. Thank you for clarifying what makes strong voice. Great post.

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  117. Great interview! Natalie has a lot of great things to say about voice.

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  118. What an awesome deal! Thanks so much for the info.

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  119. that would be a great publishing story...yeah i randomly won a critique, which led to a chapter review, which led to a manuscript request, which led to an offer.

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