3.14.2006

Are there standards for voice, like there are for writing?

Miss Snark,

I've been a true fan, you're advice is always honest. That's why I knew you would be the right person for this question. As an author you have to be able to take criticism and I do understand that is part of the business. I recently received a rejection letter from the agent of my dreams, it was earth shattering to say the least, But now that I've calmed down I'm worried about why he rejected me. He said, "The work is polished but the voice didn't win me over." Now tell me honestly, does this mean all agents will feel the same way. Is voice universal with agents, like good writing?


No.

For evidence you only need look as far as this blog: some pepole think Miss Snark's voice is just the bee's knees. Some find it a bit stingier than that. And those few, those proud, those marinated craniums , think Miss Snark is ... well...a bit of braying bitchy balderdash blathering (did I mention bitchy) barn floor contents ... not to put too fine a point on it.

Perhaps all of them are right.

Query on!

13 comments:

SherryD said...

I'm sure that agents vary in their taste for writing as much as editors and publishers. I would not worry more than 5 minutes that one agent rejected my work - I'd look at that as an opportunity to query the next 'dream' agent.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

"I know what Barn-Floor Contents are, and I'm here to tell you Miss Snark doesn't qualify."--Bill E. Goat

jta said...

Miss Snark's voice may vary from time to time, but her pitch is always true.

Yasmine Galenorn said...

You can't let one rejection trash you. This is a rough business. You have to be able to shed it off and not take it personally. Just because one agent doesn't find your work compelling doesn't mean another won't find it absolutely stunning. It's hard to grow that thick skin, but it will save you a lot of grief if you work on it.

I accrued 79 rejections from agents and 50 from publishers on one book, years ago. I could have let the rejection crush me, but I didn't. That particular book is still unpublished, but I'm not. ~grins~

Anonymous said...

I sent out six email queries today, three already came back as rejections. Which is funny cause 4 agents and one editor have asked for the full, and have had it for a good month. (I'm going by Miss Snark's advice in her "Multiple Choice" post).

Everyone's tastes differ. Don't let it stop you or even slow you down.

Eileen said...

As a reader do you like everything you pick up? No. Neither do agents. The good news is that taking rejection gets easier with practice- and writing gives you plenty of practice.

Lady M said...

Query On...

Like a march. Or Flight of the Bumblebee...

:P

I like that, it will become a mantra.

Lady M

Anonymous said...

For me, voice is the personality of the writer, or the personality of the story. Voice can make a mundane story something special. I think voice is part of the contract between reader and writer - a combination of how the writer wrote, and how the reader read the piece; so a different reader won't necessarily "get" the same voice from the same piece. You have to be true to your voice (unless you have a voice that no mother could love...).

If you consistently get feedback on voice, consider if you're putting enough of yourself in to your writing; read it aloud; have someone else read it aloud. It's a matter of taste, though, so don't let just one "data point" influence you unduly.

It would be a sad day indeed if it were proclaimed that there should be a standard for "voice"...

-ril

Eva said...

I think voice has been my greatest difficulty as a writer. I just read John Gardner's THE ART OF FICTION, and this helped me to see what I was doing wrong. In an attempt to sound wise, I sometimes use a distant voice that pulls readers out of the story. I will say "a snake's inhospitable abode" instead of "desert sand and rocks." You might look at your own writing and see if your voice is also suffering from this common error.

jta said...

But there is a standard for voice: that it ring true. Whether it's a glass harmonica or a cowbell, "voice" is the singular sound of a unique character, and when it doesn't ring true, it usually means the character isn't fully imagined, or behaves inconsistently, or otherwise fails to be a "real" believable person. So playing with the voice of a character usually won't solve any problems, but checking the character for false elements will usually straighten out the voice.

Gosserville News said...

I want to thank everyone for your outpour of postive feedback. And the last comment hit home and made me feel even silly for asking my question. It would indeed be a sad day when all books had a standard voice. I will try to grow thicker skin and push onward and upward. No is not an option! Thank you all again, you have saved Penelope voice from being altered. And besides she's only 14 years old and a garden fairy how could I have expected her voice win over a 40-something man (even if he is a damn good agent).

Termagant 2 said...

Not to worry about the instantaneous e-mail rejections, Author A. I once got a rejection on a short note requesting a house's guidelines. Maybe they didn't like my voice in the letter -- who knows?

Maybe that house's reader was having a really PMSy week.

T2

Beth said...

"Miss Snark is ... well...a bit of braying bitchy balderdash blathering (did I mention bitchy) barn floor contents ... not to put too fine a point on it."

*Sniffle* *Giggle* Ahh, thanks for the good laugh.....:-)