“I want to love your character’s voice.” So many editors say this, or something like it.
Me? When I pick up a new book, I want to love the voice too. I finish almost every book I start whether it is print or audio. If you need an estimate, I probably finish 90% of the books I begin.
But in the last month, I’ve returned three books unfinished. The first was a print book. I read about 30% of the book before I flipped to the end. Hmm. Okay. But I didn’t care enough to finish it.
The second was an audio book. I was baking Christmas cookies and doing dishes. The character was a whiny, deceitful pain. This isn’t to say that every character I read has to be a goodie, but this character wasn’t cutting it. The author is a favorite but I only made it through about ten minutes of the audio book. I may try the print book because that can make a difference.
The third was also an audio book. I’m almost 20% of my way through the book. Instead of listening while I cooked dinner last night, I started a new book. Hmm. Yes. That’s what an interesting character sounds like. I’m not 100% certain what is going on but I will keep listening and find out because this character is clearly someone who gets things done. The book that I’m giving up on is an award winner with a main character who has taken two decisive actions so far and one of them involved picking out a skirt. Help me! No, never mind. I’ll just quit listening.
The thing is – I don’t think any of these books are bad. The first is a popular mystery series. The second is by a VERY popular author. The third is an award winning book.
Sometimes the problem is that the reader (in this case, me) just isn’t in the right mood for the book. Other times the book would never suit this reader but other readers would love it.
When it comes to voice, you win some and you lose some. No character’s voice is going to make every single reader happy and that’s okay. That is why your manuscript may take many attempts to land with the right agent or editor. It is simply a matter of taste and timing.