Literary agents on VOICE

When fiction is described as having "a great voice", it means the prose is distinct in a way that feels individual, unique, with a narrator who gets right into the reader's head. Strong voice does not mean a flowery writing style. It certainly can, if that makes sense for the narrator, but there is also poetry in minimal, subtle prose. 

Literary agents on voice

How to infuse your manuscript with a strong voice?

There's no easy answer. 

Voice is ineffable. But it's easy to see, usually in the first paragraph.Andy Ross

Voice is certainly difficult to define. It's subjective, too, certainly, but literary agents are fairly unanimous on its importance.

A terrific voice and clever premise always capture my attention.Ella Marie Shupe

The key to tackling voice is in knowing your narrator.  If you have a clear idea who your narrator is and how she speaks, then you will have a much easier time infusing her personality/essence/spirit into the prose, even if the narrator isn't an actual character in the story.

Here's what several agents had to say in our Book Broker interview series:

I personally love a submission that establishes a strong voice right away. World building is important but can be distributed throughout the story. Voice though? I want to feel that character’s essence from the get-go so I can thoroughly immerse myself and care about their journey. Karly Caserza

We always say do as much refining and tweaking as you possibly can before submitting, but manuscripts do arrive in different stages of fine-tuning and if I fall head-over-heels for a voice, I will take the plunge even if there’s a lot of work to be done.Emma Finn 

If I can’t immediately picture where (and when) we are and hear a clear, authentic voice speaking to me while I’m reading, I’m not likely to read very much.Noah Ballard 

To be honest, I don’t read [query letters] first; I always look to the writing and the voice. It takes me less time—I can read five words to a paragraph and guess at whether I may end up offering representation.Weronika Janczuk

I’m not a trend-chaser so I’m most drawn to a pitch and submission when the writer shows confidence in their voice and has a clear intention in their choices of plot and structure.Jessica Craig 

I’m looking for clients for a career, not just this book, and voice is the thing that makes me confident I’ll love every book you write, no matter what happens with this one.Sharon Pelletier

 What is your favourite novel in terms of voice? What methods have you taken to ensure your narrator has a strong voice? Leave a comment below, or tweet at us!

About the Darling Axe

We are professional editors as well as award-winning writers. We understand the intense effort and emotional investment you have poured into your work. It's our job to help you realize your vision and take your manuscript to the next level.



Work with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services



Darling Axe Academy – Query Quest: a self-paced querying course

Darling Axe Academy – Best-laid plans: a self-paced outlining course

Book a sample edit with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Related Posts

Slushpile Standouts: episode two
Slushpile Standouts: episode two
In our second YouTube video, two Darling Axe editors read the first pages of several manuscripts and pose the question: 
Read More
Book Broker – an interview with Carlisle K. Webber
Book Broker – an interview with Carlisle K. Webber
I always know when a writer does or doesn’t read in the genre they’ve written. Sometimes the best thing to do as a write
Read More
Literary representation: by the numbers
Literary representation: by the numbers
It's critical to keep honing your craft, keep reading, and keep writing. There is no way around it: success as a novelis
Read More

Leave a comment

Name .
.
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published