Friday, August 3, 2012

Writing Epiphany #2,987: Finding My Story's Voice

I'm stepping away from my FBI related blogs just to chat for a moment about craft. I had a major epiphany this week that not only will help me in turning a so-so book to a must read story. But it will also ease the process of writing the future books in the series. I can almost feel the stories coming now.

I've been going through quite a bit of turmoil over this story--this J.J. McCall story. And I couldn't put my finger on the cause, but something just wasn't clicking with me. I LOVE the character. I LOVE the plot. The writing was...well...decent. I mean, it wasn't bad. But if I'm honest with myself, it wasn't clicking. 

All my life people have been telling me I have great a writing "voice." I don't take any credit for it. It's truly God-given talent. And I've really relied on my instincts or this so-called natural ability to guide me through my stories. I'm a Pantser--through and through. I've always relied on my humor and sympathetic characters to pull the readers through and it's worked for me so far.

But this is a very different kind of story from my usual romantic fare. This is romantic suspense. And while I was entertained, I was not suspended. When I hit on all cylinders, sometimes it's hard for me to put my own book down. And I wrote it, so I know how it's gonna end. And my publisher snapped those books up pretty quickly.

I wasn't getting that same feeling about this story. And I think I've figured out the MAJOR problem.

I didn't realize (and this is the novice in me) that there were many ways to tell the same story. I know you're thinking DUH. But I didn't know that I could write in different voices. You hear buzz words like "brand" and you think about what readers will expect when they read a book and you write it that way. But this really isn't the way it should be. At least not for me. I realized, after spinning my wheels for too many months, that you have to find the right voice for each and every story. Yes, you may have a writing style that has worked in one genre but that doesn't mean every book you write needs to be told the same way. And it really has taken me months to figure this out. I mean MONTHS.

It's hard when you're new to the writing game and you have to diagnose the problem in your own manuscript. It's kind of like a doctor, a week into medical school, having to diagnose his own cancer. It's probably not going to go very well for him. Didn't go so well for my book.

So how did I finally figure out the issue? Rewrites. Lots and lots of rewrites. The pace was too slow for such an intense plot. And it just hit me one day that my sentences were just too long. Might've been just after my novel put me to sleep. But now I've got the formula which is resulting in a complete rewrite. I mean, the biggest rewrite I've ever had to do on a novel. But it will pay off for the reader and that's all that matters to me.

One more month. And this story will be TRULY finished.

So, what's my point here? If your novel isn't hitting on all cylinders for you, and you truly love the plot and the characters, then you might need to check the voice. You don't have to write in the same voice for every story because you have a brand. Be true to the story. And find the voice that will give your reader the best experience. 
In the meantime, here is the new and improved blurb.

When turncoats betray America’s human sources, there is no greater failure than the loss of life—and no one knows that better than FBI Special Agent J.J. McCall. She and her co-case Agent Tony Donato have lost two in as many years, and they may lose another in just a few short days if they don’t catch the ICE PHANTOM—the code name for a near-dead investigation to identify a rumored insider spy more insidious and elusive than Ames and Hanssen combined. They might be chasing Intelligence Community ghosts—or he might be burrowed deep in FBI counterintelligence.

A born lie detector who drops vodka shots to cope with the mounting pressure at work, J.J. has crafted a web of deceit and falsified case files to protect her last remaining and most valuable source and deny her own ugly truth. But her strategy boomerangs when the FBI Director orders a new internal investigation slated to identify ICE PHANTOM and it threatens to point the blame for the unthinkable directly at J.J. and Tony. Her ability to detect lies can’t help them pass the polygraph exam they are doomed to fail. And if they’re arrested, Supermax—the high security prison—will be nothing compared to death penalty charges.

Drawn into a secret hunt, they have a week to catch ICE PHANTOM, save their source’s life—and avoid the polygraph exam that could end their own. And while J.J.’s lie detecting ability helps them narrow down the list of suspects, her ultimate lie, the one she’s been telling herself for too many years, may be the very one that helps the ICE PHANTOM get away--with murder!

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 Check out my new release: The Seven Year Itch (A J.J. McCall Novel).

  The Seven Year Itch - Kindle ($2.99)

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