A voice (in the wilderness?)
First off, a comment to a comment. Andi my dear, I don’t believe I ever said that a book has to be either grim or heavy to be award-worthy. Indeed, if you look at the Best First list you’ll see that we as a committee didn’t, either. And I would not venture to say that women writers lack seriousness–indeed, some of us are a tad too serious.
What I personally look for, and what I think most judges are hoping to see in a book, is what can be called “voice”, or its near synonym, confidence. A strong sense of person (which applies both to the writer and to his or her characters) just jumps off the page at you, and all the noir grit or meticulous research or humorous banter in the world aren’t a substitute. The Thin Man is brilliant not because of Hammett’s clever dialogue (although it is very, very clever) or because of the twists of the plot (which, though highly improbable, is nonetheless clever) but because it is perfect unto its kind: Dashiell Hammett cups his authorial hands around his book, and keeps them there, beginning to end, without spilling a drop of its essence.
Because the book I’m working on involves a set of characters I haven’t thought too much about for a number of fairly busy years, I’ve had to go back and read its predecessors, all four Martinelli books. Some of you may know that this is a thing I dread, detest, and never ever do if I can at all avoid it: when I re-read something I’ve written, all I see are the clunkers, so once a book has finished with the proof pages, that book is literally out of my hands. I know that some authors take the first copy of a new book and read it lovingly, cover to cover, but nope, not me. I really don’t want to know.
However, I also don’t like to get letters telling me that I’ve given Kate Martinelli a round face in one book and a square face in another, or that Lee Cooper’s eyes magically change color, or… Well, you get the idea. So I had to go through and make notes about the lives of these people. And it wasn’t easy. I found I didn’t much like A GRAVE TALENT, although it’s the only Edgar I’ve won–I have to agree with Barbara Peters (she of Poisoned Pen fame), who wasn’t much taken with the book when it first landed on her desk. I wasn’t all that taken by it, either, this time around.
But TO PLAY THE FOOL–now that book I could see the point of. In fact, though I say so myself, it is a very tightly written and very human book–not splashy, but a small gem. And WITH CHILD was pretty good, and if NIGHT WORK had a little too much God-stuff, it was easy to skip over those parts.
So, does this mean I should go back and make a second edition re-write of A GRAVE TALENT? (Not that I’m volunteering to do this, you understand.) Authors have done so, from time to time, and not all of them had as poor a result as the other King’s THE STAND Mark II. Personally, I think there are probably things in GRAVE TALENT that I’m not seeing, because my eye is critical. What I do know is that, thank God, a person does learn craft. My first drafts are still disastrous, unreadably so, but I have learned to rewrite more effectively.
Your motto for the day, then, and the first of the promised writing tips: Write for yourself, rewrite for your audience.
No extra charge.
Also, a big thanks to those who tried to lead this ignoramus through the undergrowth, and especially the Mistress of the Web, maggie Griffin. I’ve now conquered the web link process (I’d typed + instead of =) and so I can now tell you that you should really take a look at sarah weinman’s blogand you don’t have to hunt it down! A link which takes me sixteen strokes and a copy-and-paste, followed by a lot of squinting to check for typos, but for you guys, anything.
As for atom syndication feed, I’ve tried, maybe someone can let me know if it’s working. Whatever that is.