For writers conferences, a full edit and critique are offered for approximately 6 or more consecutive opening pages of a novel or short story, when prepared according to the formatting specifications posted on
), and submitted by its author a month or more in advance of the event to the conference coordinator (who double-checks all entries and mails them to Chris to arrive at least three weeks before the event).
Some nonfiction is also accepted for critique, though subject matter should be queried in advance.
Each author receives a 15- to 20-minute private meeting with Chris at the conference, the times to be arranged for mutual convenience.
"Finishing a first draft is the easy part. It's how you revise that makes you a writer. . . . Anybody can spit out 80,000 words. It's choosing the right 80,000 in the right order that will get you published. . . .
"[Voice is] the conversational quality of your writing, the way you “talk” to your reader. It’s as important in writing as it is in conversing aloud with someone or speaking to a group. If your voice isn’t confident, assured, authoritative, natural, and appropriate for your characters and story, the writing will feel stilted, forced, ragged, weak, awkward.
"Many editors will tell you that the most important thing they look for in manuscripts is the strength and quality of the voice."
—From "The Mystic Art of Agent Hunting" by Jason Pinter, former St. Martin's Press editor, author of the Henry Parker series.
"Perfection is achieved, not when there’s nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
—Antoine de Saint Exupéry
"In my opinion, 'voice' is the most important ingredient in a successful book. The plot may be clever, but if the voice doesn't engage us, how can we care?"
—Margaret Maron writes the Judge Deborah Knott Mysteries. She’s won every major mystery-writing award since the first in the series, The Bootlegger’s Daughter.
"I think there is a difference [between voice and style], though it’s difficult to get at. To me, voice is closer to attitude and the emotional quality of the prose, reflecting the personality of the author—angry, lost, tough, intelligent, world weary, arrogant, and so on. It’s a deeper quality, connected to who the author is and how he or she sees life and " To me, style is how you put it all together on the surface—fast-paced, spare, elaborate, light, serious, slick, more literary in the use of language and word choice, and so on. In the end, I think, the important thing is not to overthink style or voice or get too cerebral about it, but simply to write a lot.
"Eventually, you’ll find your natural writing voice and style. . . . There are no hard rules about this. In the end, each writer has to find his or her own way, by doing it."
—John Morgan Wilson writes the Benjamin Justice mystery series, winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award (“the Edgar”) from Mystery Writers of America and three Lambda Literary Awards.
"There’s a lot of stuff out there and much of it sounds familiar."
—Jim McCarthy, literary agent
"If you're not sure about your voice, begin by learning to recognize—and get rid of—the ineffective writing habits you've picked up over the years, which you don't even know you reveal to editors. Each habit smothers your natural voice and makes your writing sound the same as most beginning writers sound. Such habits are instant clues to what editors call amateur writing. I call it average writing. Whatever you call it, average writing is rejectable writing. But you have options, and you can learn how to use them."
—Chris Roerden helps writers uncover their voice in her workshops and through her books:
Don’t Sabotage Your Submission — 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award; Florida Writers Ass'n Royal Palm Award for Best Educational Book; FWA Royal Palm Book of the Year Award; and ForeWord Magazine's Bronze Medal for Writing Book of the Year 2009 —
Don’t Murder Your Mystery — Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction Book of 2006; Anthony finalist; Macavity finalist; Writer's Digest Book Club alternate selection; inclusion by Mystery Writers of America on its MWA-University recommended reading list.