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October 04, 2010


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Terri Osburn

I am happy to say I've gotten past worrying about the rules, but lately I've seen other writers losing their voice trying too hard to write like other authors. I understand the thinking, "If that book sold and I write a book just like it then I can sell." But you can't write a book just like it, you have to write your own book, with your own voice. Otherwise, it's never going to work.

The puppy chased the ball. Which I may or may not have thrown into the next yard on purpose. I mean, just because my new neighbor had really nice eyes and shoulders that made my mouth water, doesn't mean I'd throw a ball into his yard on purpose.

Or that I'd make sure the ball rolled under his deck which was too low for my puppy to crawl under and upon which said neighbor just happened to be sitting and enjoying a cold beer.

Nope, I'd never stoop to such measures. Not me.

Donna Cummings

Terri, you're exactly right about writers getting tempted to write something similar to what is selling. But you have to write the books that are yours, not anybody else's.

And I LOVED your puppy story! Love the voice in it too -- the sly humor, and self-deprecating manner. It gives you a great sense of the narrator and her deliciously devious methods (esp. the rolling the ball under the deck part).

Thanks for playing!

Liz Fichera

I love the advice your agent gave you. Very helpful.

Will need to return to complete the puppy story because my brain is slightly mushy at the moment. For some reason, I want to make it rhyme, a la Dr. Seuss, but that is so not my voice. Need more coffee.

Donna Cummings

Liz, not to worry! I knew it was a tricky exercise, but on a Monday morning? Yes, I must have lost my mind. LOL

Mine is kinda kooky, so I'll wait til everyone's had their coffee before I post it. :)

Terri Osburn

Thanks, Donna. LOL! Self-depracating I can do. Can you tell I'm moving and hoping for some nice new neighbors? ;)

Donna Cummings

LOL, Terri -- fingers crossed that you have TONS of "nice" new neighbors. I'll take all the leftover ones off your hands, okay? :)

Terri Osburn

Deal. LOL! And here's to your voice hitting bookshelves soon. If it's anything like your blogs, I'll be standing in line!

Donna Cummings

*blushes* Thanks, Terri -- I want to tell you to stop, but for some reason I can't bring myself to do that. LOL

And you will NOT be standing in line -- I plan to send the books to you via Hottie messenger! (It's the least I can do. LOL)

Anita Clenney

This post touches a topic so near my heart. I almost quit writing because of rules. Now I've learned that the story is what matters, not the rules. The rules are there to help the story, when the rules need to be broken to help the story, that's fine too.

The gray ball bounced off the puppy's paw and rolled across the yard. Yipping, the puppy gave chase. So busy chasing, she didn't notice that she'd entered the forest until she heard the silence. Stark silence. She stopped, tensed her legs and whined as shadows rose above her, around her, moving closer and closer. With one soft yelp, she turned, stretched out her legs full length and ran. Through the trees, across the grass, onto the porch. Panting, she lay down and planted her head on her front paws and watched the trees peering out at her.

Donna Cummings

Anita, I'm glad the rules didn't keep you from writing. :) I agree they are there to service the story, not stop it.

And I'm enchanted with your puppy story! I love that sense of menace and foreboding. *shivers* Makes me want to pick up the puppy and comfort it. :) Thanks for playing!

Rochelle Staab


Great blog today - I agree! Those damn rules can really put the damper on voice, flow, creativity and have now carried into my everyday communications. I used to think 'it' was a perfectly good universal catch-all word. Now I feel compelled to explain it (the word) every time I write it (the word).

The fifteen year-old freshman, a mere puppy in high school social society, chased her friendship with the cool crowd until she wrangled an invitation to their Halloween ball. She wouldn't discover their real reason for inviting her until her pre-arranged date showed up at her front door. Be careful what you ask for.

Donna Cummings

LOL, Rochelle -- I'm so impressionable, I'm going to pick up your need to explain "it". That is too funny.

LOVE the twist on the puppy story! Very creative. (And I want to read the rest of it! LOL)


Alan bent and effortlessly swept the puppy up, out of harms way as the ball tumbled over the railing, into the Caribbean. He glanced down at the pup, wiggling in his arms and had to smile.

Rotten little bundle of fur. "Your aunt Emily would have been quite upset if you'd tumbled after that ball, young sir!"

Why she'd insisted on such a...a lively gift was beyond him. He'd suggested a toy pirate ship. But she said nope, had to be something that would grow with their new great nephew.

But the ball was a goner.

Seconds later, the ball flew through the air to land with a slimy splat on the deck. It tried to roll, but the slime on it stopped that progress. The pup yelped with excitement and he set it down. But even the puppy wasn't enamored of the stinky slime. It sat and looked at Alan, as if it were his fault.

Alan glanced over the side to see a white tentacle slipping beneath the waves.

That kraken really held affection for his wife!

Donna Cummings

Maureen! I was hoping I'd get a kraken story. :) And it's absolutely delightful!

I love how you've taken that initial sentence and wrapped it up in a story that is completely YOU, with your voice. Thank you for sharing it!


I almost let the pup like the stink and be willing to be played with by a tentacle...but thought that might be a bit much!

I do think it's hard to hang onto the voice that is most natural to a writer. But I also think there are several voices straining to come out and be expressed. I guess the trick is to keep some common thread in everything you weave...

And you're welcome!

Donna Cummings

That could have been a fun variation. :) I can tell I'm really going to enjoy The Kraken's Mirror when it comes out.

I agree that the trick is to keep the common thread. That's how I can write in different genres -- there is always humor, and word play, and other things that reflect me -- no matter what story I decide to tell. :)


I think the hard thing is when you go into a darker mood...you try to stay true to your voice, but there is no room for humor. You somehow have to find the flipside of the tongue-in-cheek voice and make it work empathetically with the darker events.

My second couple in the kraken book has a harder course to sail, some very dark background...harder to write and have it sound like me.

Donna Cummings

That's true, Maureen. I had to do that with one of my historicals, when it was the "black moment", and earlier portions were very humorous.

It still has your world view and perspective, though -- the things you focus on and emphasize that might be different than another writer's take on the situation. Just look at how differently everyone approached the puppy sentence. :)

This is what I love about writing.


Yeah, the flipside has to be the right match, the other side of the coin, so to speak. But the same coin.

Liz Lipperman

She gasped as her puppy squirmed out of the collar and ran into the trees, leaving her standing there with the empty leash. Great. The animal shelter had already made her feel like she might be a bad mother, deliberating three days before they finally released little Shu Shu to her. How would she ever explain losing the damn pup on the first day?

A smile spread across her face as the little Pomeranian charged out of the trees with a bone twice her size in her mouth. The little devil promptly ran up and deposited the treasure at her master's feet.

Oh dear God! It was a bone all right, but this one had skin and fingers attached.

Can you tell I write mysteries?? I loved reading the responses and trying to figure out what genre the author wrote.

You are so right about losing your voice at times. My friends say they love reading my stuff because it sounds just like me talking to them. I guess that means I have my own voice!!

Great food for thought, Donna.

Donna Cummings

LOL, that's a GREAT story, Liz! I loved the punchline. :) Thanks for playing!

I'm with you -- it was fun reading the stories and guessing the genre each person writes. And you definitely have your own voice. It's very distinctive, and very fun. I can't wait to read your mysteries. :)

Tiffany Lawson

Well I am very glad I cracked open my laptop tonight. I hit up the Mysteries and Margaritas blog today, and didn't realize I missed this post! Monday Mojo! Well even though it's after 9pm, I'll take it!

Reading a book where the writer imitates another author's voice is like hearing a Harpes talons ripping down a 30 foot chalkboard. (can you hear it? I can!)

Thank you for posting on the topic - reading all the comments was a treat! You have now become a new part of my daily blog hop.

Marilyn Shank

I bounced the ball a few times as I cooed at my little white terrier mix. "Look, GinGin. See the ball? Watch the ball, Ginni. Fetch!" I threw the rubber ball a few feet with all the confidence my Cesar Millan watching pack leader self could muster."

Ginni scratched her neck with her hind leg while she looked at me as if to say, "Yeah, well, I'll get back to you on that one." Then she walked to the porch and plopped down, leaving me alone in the yard to pick up the ball.

So much for 300 bucks worth of obedience classes.


Love the blog, Donna! You said what I needed most to hear right now.

Am I too late for the exercise?

“See, sweetie. The puppy chased the ball. You knew when you threw it that the fool puppy would chase it right into the pool. Puppies don’t think; they just react. Fill a dish with food, and they eat it. Throw a ball, and they chase it. Pat their heads, and they lick your hands. But dammit, girl, you’re no puppy, and it’s high time you stopped chasing what someone else is throwing.”

Donna Cummings

Tiffany, I'm glad you cracked open your laptop too! I try to have something for "Monday Mojo" that will inspire everyone as they go into their writing week, and it seems like everyone had fun with this one. Thanks for adding me to your blog rounds -- I hope you'll like the other things I come up with. :)

I'm cringing at the thought of talons on a 30 foot chalkboard. LOL THAT is an excellent description.

Donna Cummings

Marilyn, that was great! I could see the dog's personality so perfectly -- as well as the ball thrower's dismay. Very nice. :) Thanks for playing!

Donna Cummings

Janga, it's never too late! And I'm glad the post was what you needed to hear -- I always like when I come across those too. :)

I'm really intrigued--I might make you come back and tell some more of your story! That last sentence is delightful. :)

Terri Osburn

I'm glad I came back and read everyone else's offer. I love the kraken and the retrieving a bone one sounds like the opening on an episode of Bones. LOL! Janga's sounds like she's talking right to me, so I'm not going to think about that one.

But now we need your snippet, Donna.

Donna Cummings

Terri, weren't those fun? And I'll tell you a secret: I almost took out the writing prompt, but then I saw you had posted yours, so I left it in. I'm glad I did. You're the one who got everyone started!

And I was wondering if anyone would notice I hadn't posted mine. LOL I better have some coffee first! :)

Abigail-Madison Chase

Great Advice!

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