What the heck is ‘Voice’?

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He was a great author, but Bram Stoker didn’t have the voice we want to read now.

Every writer who’s submitted anything has had so sit through a stern lecture about Voice. “The Voice isn’t quite right.” “Publishers are super-attuned to voice.” Or, my personal favorite: “Your narrative has no voice.”

No voice? None? With thousands of words filling hundreds of pages it would have to at least sound like me. When I speak, people hear my voice, so surely it’s the same when I write.

Agents may have been sparing my feelings when they gave me these actual points of feedback. They couldn’t have meant the narrative was silent, so maybe they just didn’t like the writing. I think there’s more, though. I think part of it might be that they want something in #ownvoices. Continue reading

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Award-Winning Novels!

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EyelandsShorter
Snack runs in Utah just got deadly

Bold Satire Crimes of Convenience:

  • Grand Finalist of 200 entries in the 40th annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
  • A Blue Collar Conspiracy!
Jessica has become just psychic enough to get herself killed

YA Speculative Mystery Too Much Information:

…and check my profile page for links to twenty award-winning published short stories.

Putting the ‘Wealth’ back in ‘Commonwealth’

GCCommonwealth_GamesAs the Commonwealth Games wrap up here on the Gold Coast, it’s easy to feel proud of our city. Not only did we manage to host athletes and other visitors from around the world, but we managed to do it in an atmosphere that was all at once festive and civilized. We celebrated the spirit of friendly competition between nations, and looked on in awe at the persistence that it takes to succeed. As so often when athletes gather, they modelled the values of hard work and respect.

Here’s the thing, though: why do we so often notice those values mostly in athletes?

After all, everyone must know a store manager who was promoted because he was willing to work a double shift. We all must have heard stories about an entrepreneur who kept her business solvent by promoting it online late into the night. Surgeons pull marathon shifts in theatre to keep us alive, and teachers go bleary preparing feedback to keep us educated.

Dare I say it? Writers, especially, have to push and push themselves just to get a novel into the marketplace: even a beloved bestseller. Continue reading

3 Day Novel Finalist

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Yesterday, satirical adventure Crimes of Convenience became a Top Ten Finalist in the 40th Annual International 3-Day Novel Contest, in the running for a grand prize that includes publication. Geist chose the novel out of over 200 entries.

When a convenience store’s customers are repeatedly poisoned by factory-sealed snacks, the manager must choose whether to protect himself or investigate the conspiracy theories of a paranoid homeless Australian and a gluten-free Vegan activist. Will Cosgrove play along with the suspicious lawyer who is protecting him, or cooperate with the only cop who seems concerned for the victims of the Chomp-n-Pump? One of the Blue-Collar Conspiracies set in Provo, Utah by K. Alan Leitch.

Five Ways to be Badly Published

About a year after I began submitting my writing, I was offered a contract on one of my satirical thrillers, Driven. Because I felt at the time that it was the least polished of my efforts, I began asking advice, and I will never forget one of the earliest and wisest things that anyone has told me to date.

Victoria Strauss wrote, “Being unpublished is better than being badly published.”

At first, I thought that maybe managing the blog at Writer Beware had made Victoria paranoid. I wasn’t even sure what she meant by “badly published.” If someone was willing to print and sell my first novel on my behalf, how bad a publisher could they be?

Of course, Victoria’s mission is to protect a writer’s work and reputation to future publishers, so I knuckled into some research. I quickly learned a few ways to spot a publisher that even new writers don’t want, and have been learning more and more of those ever since.

The Contract

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We all want friendly relationships, but make sure your contract is binding.

Every publisher should offer a clearly worded contract. Some do not. I learned the hard way that ticking a box on a submissions manager is a very poor substitute for a real, big-boy’s contract… and that a real, big-girl’s contract should be about fifteen pages long. Continue reading

Are Trends Really a Novelist’s Friends?

Will hashtags help or hurt Too Much Information?

When I first decided to focus on submitting novels, I assumed that trends were my friends. With all the #MSWL listings asking for them, I tried to write using strong female voices; because they dominated Young Adult fiction, I tried to create paranormal characters. By the time I had written revision after revision, though, I found that agents were already looking for LGBQ voices instead, and that the teenage obsession with friendly monsters had given way to the Dystopias that had probably always lived inside them. In other words, writing to trends was as often harmful to my chances as it might have been helpful.

KatnissVsBella

Katniss made us forget Bella, but neither are trending now.

How do we judge, then, whether something trendy will serve to enhance an agency query or just give it a shelf life? By the time my editor, Matthew Bird, gave me the tools I needed to craft my sixth revision of Too Much Information, the novel already had plenty of trends in it. It features a teenage girl, after all, who awakens from a coma able to see that everyone around her is a ‘Bully’ or a ‘Misogynist’ or a ‘Murderer,’ just by looking in their eyes. The novel is a murder mystery, but about a super-power that Jessica feels is a curse. It has girl-power. It has wacky sidekicks. It has threats from the darkest corners of our real-life fears, and teenage protagonists learning to face them.

It was about to get a whole lot trendier, though: some say too trendy.

Continue reading