Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Voice Trouble

If I were better at self-promotion and blogging, I'd have one blog just about writing and books and another about my journey with cancer. But since that's more than my meager brain can handle, allow me to apologize to the reader who came looking for a good cancer story and instead finds one about writing. Because most of the time these days I'm just a cancer fighter. But sometimes I smack myself on the forehead and remember that I'm supposed to be an author too, which is what happened big time a couple months ago.

It started with an offer from my publisher to publish my manuscript Perfectly Normal. Which is really nice. I'd almost forgotten that I'd sent it to them - way back in the days that I was just a writer and a Mom. Before the big diagnosis. They gave me a month to make up my mind, and most of me wanted to say yes, but I just couldn't feel good about it. Mostly because I don't have the energy or frame of mind to start promoting a new book. I can't even get around to promoting my old book. But also there was something about the manuscript that just didn't feel right.

So I opened the dusty, neglected file and started reading it for the umpteenth time. And realized that my problem is all in the voice.

My other books have all been in third person, with point-of-view changes in most scenes. Where Hearts Prosper has two voices: Carmen, the mom; and Paige, her teenage daughter. This worked well since the two spend most of the story on different ends of the country.

But this new story, Perfectly Normal, is only seen from the point of view of the main character, Mira, which makes first-person a logical choice. Especially since it's written for young adults, who tend to like the intimacy of first person. But when I started writing, I just couldn't latch on to Mira's voice while in first-person. I fussed and changed and changed some more, and finally decided I was just a third-person writer. I then tried to add other points of view--her parents, her boyfriend, her trainer, the villains, but didn't like that either. Adding other voices gave away too much of the mystery.

The end result was an 80,000 word young-adult science-fiction novel written in third person with only one point of view. And it just felt wrong.

So on a whim I changed just the first page to first person, simply by using the find and replace feature in Word to change all the pronouns. I took both versions to my daughter. She's read this page at least a dozen times and so of course groaned when I handed her the two pages. But after reading both versions she informed me that the story had to be first person. In Mira's own words.

They were there anyway, I just hadn't realized it. So I went through the entire document and changed every "she" to "I", every "herself" to "myself" and every "they" to "we." And it's finally the story it should be. Mira's story. The girl who considers herself a perfectly-normal human being, and hates being called an alien, even though she is--technically--from another planet. The girl who falls in love with a boy she's not even supposed to talk to, and quickly learns that the only way to keep him safe is to leave him--if only she could.

Now I just have to work on finding a publisher again. But I'm thinking I might until my hair grows back.


Kimi said...

I would never groan about it! You should fire Jen and hire me!

Suzanne Reese said...

I'd love to hire you! Except it's not Jen, it's Nat, and she really is a trooper for the number of times she's read that blasted first page. But since I'm making even MORE changes (stop me please, I think it's a sickness) maybe I'll send it to you when I'm done. =)

jennzech said...

Hi! I wasn't going to leave a comment, but after I read what you have on your sidebar, I thought I better. If you look at my picture, you might not recognize me, but you knew me nearly 20 years ago when I was a little girl (Jennifer Brady). Despite our 2-year age gap, your Jennifer and I became friends when we were just 6 and 8. I can't believe how much your children have grown up, but I guess we all have...

Anyway, I found your blog through Jennifer's blog. I had no idea you were a writer, and I'm thinking I better run out and buy your book!

Ever since I heard the news about your cancer, your family has been in my prayers, and will continue to be.

Best of luck in your writing, self-promoting, and everything else.

Jenn (Brady) Zechlin

Suzanne Reese said...

Jenn, I remember you well, and your mother too. She's a great lady. I'm so glad you wrote. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers!

EVO SIX said...

Just letting you know I'm still a faithful loyal fan and you're still prayed for in our home! You're amazing Suzanne.

KittyBrooks said...

Hi. Just stumble onto your blog and decided to leave a comment.

I started my blog with an idea that it would be about one thing, then it morphed into something else, and something else, and so on. Right now it is in the process of becoming a mixture of me, anything that interests/ bothers me that week. It is completely understandable that some of your posts are about writing while others are about the 'monster on the inside' [as my nephew call the cancer that his great aunt has been suffering from].

As someone who has read a lot, and i mean a lot, about cancer, what is missing out there is a real life account of a day to day struggle. Most of the books about it are filled with mambo-jumbo that only doctors could decipher.

How did you become a writer? How do you find the time to sit down and write a whole book? From start, through revisions, to finish? After you wrote your first book, how did you get it published? How long was it from the time you finished writing until it was published/ Well I have a lot of other questions but will stop now, so as to not annoy you too much.
Good luck with your writing and hope you feel better soon.

P.S. No hard feelings if you can not answer the questions.