People are always asking me what kind of novel I’m looking for. My fiction tastes vary—I’ve fallen in love with everything from historical wartime novels to satirical portraits of contemporary life to dystopian imaginings of a world far beyond our own. Scenes depicting everything from a child’s birthday party in suburban Las Vegas, to a tense boardroom meeting at a Portland software start-up, to an underground Christian mass in North Korea have taken my breath away. What matters to me is VOICE. When I can’t put a manuscript down, can’t stop flipping through pages, it’s because I am locked in to the voice of the author on the page. I’m not speaking about the characters’ voices, but the authorial voice that seeps into them all and also goes beyond them, no matter if the story is told in first or third person. Inversely, if a manuscript isn’t clicking for me, it’s often because the voice feels weak. An author’s voice might be funny, charming, sarcastic, biting, heartfelt, emotional, cool and reserved, observational…but none of that is required. What is required is that it is assured. That it takes control, takes the wheel, and drives. That it is clear we better get inside the back of the car because this thing is pulling out of park and moving. You are master of your prose—get it to the place where your storytelling voice is assured, and the reader has nothing to do but get in for the ride. Where the music of your writing—the rhythm, the cadence, the beats—is flowing. If you don’t feel like your writing muscles are there yet, then the BEST thing to do is read, read, read those writers whose muscles are there.
—Rayhané Sanders of Massie & McQuilkin