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.
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.