Friday, January 16, 2009


One of the big things I keep hearing agents talk about is voice. And by hearing, I mean reading their blogs. My eyes are my ears these days. So, they say to me, one on one in our daily little virtual chats, voice is what really pulls them into a story.

I have come to admit that my background in journalism and technical writing has done me no favors in this area. Journalism is strictly facts. Technical writing is insert item A into slot B and click OK. (Did you know that the proper term is not press or hit or push, but in fact click, and that you never, ever click on? For shame). There is no room for these little funnies in a documentation manual or online help system.

And when it comes to creative writing I do have a fond appreciation of descriptive text, made-up situations, and onomatopoeias (yet I fear the adverb, as should you) I realize that I have a hard time with voice. And I couldn’t put my finger on it until I started looking for it. Think Bridget Jones. Really, I don’t care if you think this book is fluff, Helen Fielding nailed a distinctive voice here. Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. Holden getting all sexy in The Catcher in the Rye. Enzo the dog in The Art of Racing in the Rain (by Garth Stein, a great new book, you must go read it).

I noticed voice better when I started reading blogs daily. I read mostly (aka only) blogs of agents, writers, and editors and I read them to learn. But for the folks with voice, I will read the posts about their cats. Their words sang to me, no matter the topic. So to demonstrate voice and also share some lovely ideas about publishing, here are a few posts that I dig.

Courtney Summers. I read her as a guest blogger on the The Swivet. And even though, not being a young adult, I don’t read YA fiction, I could not stop reading Courtney’s posts. She was adorable and I wanted to give her a hug and dance to 80s music with her.

Janet Reid. An agent at FinePrint Literary Management and also the Query Shark. She will tell you why your queries suck and when you get done laughing at a bad query, you will realize that you make some of those same mistakes too. Here’s a post on query mistakes.

Nathan Bransford. An agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. He is super laid back and fun all around, but I especially love this one where he writes in the voice of the dreamy and mysterious Don Draper of Mad Men fame.

Moonrat. An editor with a blunt tongue. This is a great post on Overwriting. Plus, she goes by Moonie for short. That’s just super cute.


  1. If only I would have read this post before I commented in your second post. But please, keep recommending more blogs and books and such.

    I like what you said about listening to other people's voice, I never really thought about identifying them from blogs, etc. I will keep my eyes and ears open for them.

    I've saw the "The Art of Racing In The Rain" at the bookstore, and added it to my mountain of to be read books, glad to know it's as good as it sounded.

    PS. Love Mad Men, the attention to historical detail that show has is amazing.

  2. Lisa,

    Voice is such an important part of writing. It is the essence of a particular writer and his/her style. When I first started out writing I struggled with this a lot. But when it clicked for me, it became so obvious. The truth is, even a good journalist can have a distinct voice. I write mostly fiction nonfiction for magazines, and I feel like I have finally found a groove--and I think that is my voice.