Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What agents want.

Yesterday I talked about the decision all writers and professionals in the entertainment industry must eventually make. Do I need an agent and when should I look for one? Today I will talk about what agents look for when you decide to send in that genius of prose you've penned.

The one thing I kept hearing over and over again, whether from agent, editor, or publisher, was they were looking for writers who told their story with a unique voice.

Not story. Not mechanics. Not characters. They want a unique voice. Not to say that characterization and story aren't important. They are. But you must have a unique voice that sets your story apart from all the thousands that will be published this year.

By now you are probably asking what exactly is a unique voice? Don't we already have that? Good question. And probably the hardest to answer. Voice is like beauty. Difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it.

There are only so many plotlines and combinations available to a storyteller. King Solomon said it centuries ago. There is nothing new under the sun. Every crime has been committed, every commandment broken, every dream fulfilled...or unfulfilled. Knowing that, how can you possibly write a story that has already been told to death, and still capture the attention of an agent?

That's where unique voice comes in. You must tell your story the way only you can tell it. Have you ever known someone who can tell a good joke? They are funny without even trying. Someone else will tell the same joke, and it bombs. You can fake smart or interesting or clever, but you can't fake funny.

To tell your story with a unique voice doesn't mean it has to be funny. It can be heart wrenching or soul searching or inspiring or tongue-in-cheek. That's for you to decide. What's important is that you make in unique. That's how your writing gets attention.

When I first started writing, I struggled with voice and style. I wasn't sure what either one was, and I certainly didn't know how to develop it. You can't really learn it out of a book. If you could, we would all be funny and charming and the life of the party.

My advice, since this blog post has to end eventually, is to start writing. Tell your story from your heart. Don't try to mimick a prolific writer's style. Tell it the way only you can. It's your story. Don't fake it. Maybe someday aspiring writers will be trying to mimick you.

Until tomorrow, have a wonderful and productive day.


  1. Particularyly loved this blog. Even tho I've heard it & read it-that editors want a new voice-it's never sunk in, till I read your blog. Thks for reminding us that we need to be true to ourselves! Great blog.

  2. Caroline,
    When I headed out to this conf. I wondered if I'd learn anything new. Like you, I've heard it or read it all before. But sometimes someone will say something that strikes a cord. Always good to keep learning and keep striving.

  3. Wow, wish now I'd gone to the Columbus Conference! Maybe I'll make it next year. Great thoughts about finding your own voice. Hope to see you in Hillsboro on the 19th! I'm one of the "Cookies and Milk" ladies from the Gazette.