Writing Books/Finding my own voice and research.
QUESTION: Dear Cathy,
The question that I have been meaning to ask all along was how do I find my own voice in terms of writing? I know that the simple anwser is to practice writing itself. I am working on writing a fantasy adventure story, but the more I read Harry Potter or the Golden Compass Series etc. the more I feel like I am somewhat losing my own immagination, when I am trying to develop it by readingother fiction. Is that possible?
ANSWER: Hi again, P.J.
I don't know that there's a good answer for this. "Voice" is thrown about like it has a definable meaning, when it really doesn't. It's a "feel" that makes a reader recognize a story written by an author. It's the way they put words together, how the characters interact on the page. But it's not something that can be learned, per se.
For example, if you decided to write some fan fic of Harry Potter (and you wanted it to sound realistic), you'd make Harry sound like . . . well, "Harry." He wouldn't get into a physical fight with Mrs. Weasley, but he might with Draco. Goyle isn't suddenly going to tell Draco to go to hell, but he might sabotage something of Hermione's. It's a "feel."
When it's your characters, YOU make the feel. No matter how similar a character you create to something already on the shelf, it's going to have YOUR voice, because you simply can't help it. You're writing the dialogue, and the narrative and the setting. Not Jo Rowling, or Jim Butcher, or even F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's just YOU. So your voice starts from day one and yes, only practice will refine it. You might try to set a "tone" that resembles a tension-fraught Quiddich game, or the high seas of the Golden Compass, but it'll never be exact, because it's YOUR voice.
I know that's frustrating to hear, but it's something that just takes time and practice. Keep at it, and you'll suddenly look at something you wrote, and say, "Hey! This isn't like ANYBODY else's book." Then you've found your voice. :)
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QUESTION: I fully understand and am not offended. I know that you said that a degree from college is not needed to writing a novel. But the classes I know will give me the help that I need to putting the puzzle together. Do you know of anyway of finding literary agents?
Sure! Lots of ways. The first thing you should invest in is a book called "Writers Market" This is put out by Writer's Digest magazine and contains not only lots of agencies and publishers information, but also a lot about how the book industry works. It'll give examples of good query letters, what sort of money you can expect to earn from different kinds of writing, etc. You should be able to find it at pretty much any bookstore (and you might check to see if your library carries it. It's not a cheap book.)
Next, visit the Association of Author Representatives. This is an organization of literary and screen agents who have agreed to abide by a canon of ethics in dealing with authors and writers. They have a TERRIFIC page that explains the relationship between an author and agent. You can find them at: http://www.aar-online.org
AgentQuery is another good place. This online resource is searchable by genre, so you can find just the right fit. It's at: http://www.agentquery.com
Then check out some of the "watchdog" sites so you learn what to watch for to avoid scams (yes, there are literary agents who are scammers and will try to suck the money from your wallet.) A couple are:
(then look down the list for Bewares & Backgrounds Checks)
Hope that helps, and feel free to ask anything else! :)