Know Your Voice

A Guest Post By: Janice Sperry, Author of Rebel Princess

I wrote a book a few years ago. It was funny, had an amazing plot, and I was sure the first editor to read it would fall in love. I did several revisions, made use of online forums, and had other people read it. The response was mostly positive. A few people from the forums said they thought my voice was more MG than YA, but they were crazy. The plot was YA. It would never work as a MG.

So, I submitted it and got a lot of form rejections. The one agent that requested a partial didn’t love it. The first editor not only didn’t love it, but she said the plot never really went anywhere. Ouch. I set it aside for a while and then read it again. They were right. My book was a mess. The characters were sixteen, but they acted like twelve-year-olds. It turned out those forum people weren’t crazy after all.

The storyline wouldn’t leave me alone, though. I really loved it. It was a fractured fairy tale where the princess didn’t want to follow the fairy-tale rules. It was an epic romance, with thumping hearts and love . . . and it couldn’t be fixed. So I left the manuscript in the back of my files and started again, keeping only key elements.

I had rewritten the book several times, but never from scratch. This time I aimed for MG. My new characters were in the seventh grade. I accepted the fact that I can’t write romance and gave it up. I simplified and organized my plot. My characters had goals and went after them. When it was close to done, I entered the first chapter in a contest held by a local writer’s conference. It won first place in the middle grade category. The judges all said that I had a great middle grade voice.

After I finished the book, I submitted it and the editor fell in love with it. Rebel Princess was released this month.

Here are five things that could have saved me years of languishing in an unpublished state.

1- Know your voice. Figure out who your voice resonates with and go with it. I may try my hand at YA again, but not until I’ve perfected a YA voice.

2- Listen. If one person tells you something is wrong with your writing, they might be crazy. If several people tell you, then there is something wrong.

3- Let it go. You don’t have to delete all that hard work; just don’t open the file anymore. Start new and you’ll be amazed how much better your words come out.

4- Contests are your friends. I got some great advice from the judges that I used to improve the entire manuscript. Part of my prize was a “Get out of the slush pile free” card with the three biggest local publishers. I used it after using the judges’ advice and had an offer a month after submission.

5- Don’t give up. Attend writer’s conferences, read books, join forums. Keep improving your craft and eventually you’ll reach your goal.

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Janice Sperry lives in Utah with her husband and three children. She enjoys volunteering at the local elementary school and is exceptionally good at finding missing shoes, unless they are her own. You can follow her blog at www.comeoutwhenyourehappy.blogspot.com and purchase her book at Amazon or your favorite book retailer.


2 Responses

  1. Janice Sperry says:

    Thank you! The reviews have been positive so far.

  2. Sometimes it takes a bit to know where a story idea will sit. So glad you hung on to it because this sounds like an awesome read 🙂

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