Wow, it’s November. I’m not sure how that’s possible. On one hand, it still feels like 2020, and on the other, I could fill encyclopedias with how much has happened each month, day, and moment of this year. It’s been wonderfully busy—full of ups and downs, and all very dizzying. But...I’m finally readying myself to work on a big writing project that I set a goal to complete . . . LAST OCTOBER.
Was that a sigh and nod from you, too? Oh, good! I’m not alone. This, I know. In fact, if there’s one common thread among *everyone* these days, it’s probably that we need to give ourselves a little, or a lot, of grace.
It’s okay. I keep reminding myself of this. Because in this time that I have not written THIS THING, I did write a handful of new somethings. Some of which are becoming books! Some of which are out *there* finding the perfect champion. Some of which were scribbles and scrabbles . . . and maybe, some day, something more.
But now, it’s November. That’s two months before the new year. Next year is going to be busy-in-the-best-way for me. I have five books releasing in 2022—the three TEENY HOUDINI chapter books, and picture books, SOMETIMES LOVE, and GRUMPY NEW YEAR!!! So . . . I am setting a *new goal* for myself to start and finish THIS THING before the end of the year. (unofficially like the NaNoWriMo challenge, but I'm giving myself two months!)
When I’m drafting, I purposefully do not read any books in the same genre/vein of what I am writing. I don’t want any voice except my own coming into the story. However, I *do* do some work beforehand to infuse myself with books that I love. Books that I’ve fallen head over heels for, whose essence I want to become infused into part of my subconscious so that it guides my writing in an intentional way. I make a point to choose a variety of books, from various authors, to study.
What is it I’m studying? I’m seeking a tangible way to answer, What Makes Me Fall For A Book?
And, after much research, it comes down to this:
The author’s voice.
What is a literary voice?! There are a lot of fancy and official definitions and resources to explain it*. To me, an author’s voice is their individual personality coming through their words. It’s distinct, palpable, feels alive, and yet, through their different stories, feels consistent. It’s the way *only they* can tell that story. It’s both full of them, and yet, fully open to become the reader’s story, too.
Here are some notes for myself (and now, for you, too!) that I’ve taken from studying some of my favorite authors’ books:
Author: Kate DiCamillo
What Captivates Me: characters are memorable, full of warmth and hope
How? Use very specific, unique, quirky details
Example: “Frank thought how mysterious the world was, how unexplainable and sometimes frightening. But to sit in the kitchen and read to someone he loved and to push back the darkness with a story—that was a wonderful thing.”
- pg. 88, Franklin Endicott and the Third Key, Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick 2021
Author: Tammi Sauer
What Captivates Me: she creates extremely lovable characters that we want to be friends with; their struggles are very relatable and they have true to kid emotions
Example: check out A LITTLE CHICKEN, illustrated by Dan Taylor, Sterling 2019
She shares Dot’s story in such a sweet, fun, pun-ny way that remind readers it’s okay to feel chicken, and when you need to, you’ll be brave. And what a perfect name for this adorable main character who feels too small to be brave!
Now it’s your turn.
What makes you fall for a book?
How can you capture those tangible elements and infuse them into your own writing voice?
I’m rooting for you. Maybe yours will be the next book that I fall for!
*More Resources For You:
How To Get Six Pack by Tammi Sauer “You need to feed your muse and writing ability.” - Tammi Sauer https://taralazar.com/2018/09/26/how-to-get-a-six-pack-by-tammi-sauer-plus-a-giveaway/
Six Golden Rules for Writing Middle Grade: “See through their eyes, not yours.” -Erin Entrada Kelly https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/6-golden-rules-of-writing-middle-grade
How and When to Develop a Voice: https://literaryterms.net/when-and-how-to-develop-a-voice/
Katrina Moore writes for all, teaches many, and raises two young children. She holds an M.A. in elementary education. She's the author of ONE HUG, GRANDPA GRUMPS, SOMETIMES LOVE (Penguin/Dial, '22), and the forthcoming chapter book series, TEENY HOUDINI (HarperCollins/Tegen, '22), and more. Connect with her on twitter!