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Day 6 (Part 1) of May’s Voice Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentor Kelly Siskind

Monday, 9 May 2016  |  Posted by Heather Cashman

voice workshop


Welcome to May’s Voice Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected over thirty writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a 500 word sample that the writer chose from his or her manuscript where he or she felt they needed help with their voice. Our hope that these samples will help you with your work and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors.We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques.  If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.

And now we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor Kelly Siskind

Website  |  Twitter

Kelly SiskindKelly is the author of CHASING CRAZY and MY PERFECT MISTAKE, the latter being the first of her Over the Top series, all published through Grand Central’s Forever Yours. A small-town girl at heart, she moved from the city to open a cheese shop with her husband in northern Ontario. When she’s not neck deep in cheese or out hiking, you can find her, notepad in hand, scribbling down one of the many plot bunnies bouncing around in her head. She laughs at her own jokes and has been known to eat her feelings—gummy Bears heal all. She’s also an incurable romantic, devouring romance novels into the wee hours of the morning.


Kelly’s 500 Word Critique . . .

Adult Contemporary Romance

My date is named Ed, but I’m not supposed to call him “Ed.”  He’s  Ed-something. –gar? –mund? –ward? –win? It’s important because he’s a III or a IV.  (Perfect opening. Fun. Voice is already alive.)

Suffice to say, I’m thinking of him as “my date” so I won’t slip and call him “Ed.” My oldest sister picked this guy out, and I like him better than the sharky lawyer types my other sister has been setting me up with. He’s a literature PhD candidate at Harvard, but he’s mentioned it only two times.  And I’ve spent only half the date thinking about my ex.

This is a good date.

“So, I think this is going well,” My date (I’d like to see the “Date” in capital, too. Makes it a bit funnier, like his proper name.) says.  He’s got a lopsided smile and messy, rich kid (hyphante rich-kid) hair—like someone coated him in prep school. It’s rascally.

He’s not like Angel at all. Angel’s look was tightly controlled, perfectly groomed.  He looked full of secrets, rather.  Because he was full of secrets. (I feel like this previous sentence can have more punch. More voice. Did he keep more secrets than xyz, or would he wind up in a Secrets Hall of Fame? You get the idea, but can write it better!) At this point in a dinner out, Angel would say he had a sour stomach. Then he’d disappear for fifteen minutes, and I’d sit at the table, wondering if he was screwing the waitress.  Then I’d feel stupid for thinking that because of course someone wouldn’t do that. (Repeat of “that” twice in this sentence makes it a bit clunky. I’d rework it and, again, punch it up: …because only xyz people would sneak off and bang…or something smarter than that.) But in the year and three months since our break-up, I’ve (I’d) learned that I should have trusted my instincts.  Angel was screwing waitresses in bathroom stalls.  And waiters, too. (Love this detail!)

“Meg?” My date says.

“I agree. This is a nice date. Why don’t we go for a walk?” (Dialogue above and below reads a tad stiff. Not sure if that is your intension. Both your MC and her date speak in a similar, formal pattern. Wondering if you can mix up their voices?)

“I would love that.” He plucks my coat off the nearby rack and holds it out for me. For a moment I’m near him.  He smells like fancy cologne.

Angel smelled like—

No thinking about Angel.

When we get to the street, my date’s (I’d keep with the capitals here for My Date, and the previous one, too.) phone rings. He looks torn about answering it. (Instead of stating he looks torn, can you show it? What is he physically doing to demonstrate his indecision?)

“Go ahead.  I should check mine, too.” I hate being away from the office. For the past year, I’ve channeled break-up into getting ahead at work. The other junior associates have an interest in life, so they can’t keep up with me.

I’ll see your seventy-hour work week and raise you ten. (Love this.)

My date stops abruptly, his mouth hanging open.  “No way,” he says into the phone.  “No way, no way! That’s in half an hour.” He’s shivering, but not with January cold.  (In between here, can you give another physical description that makes your MC believe her date is getting good news? His reaction had me thinking it was bad news, so I’d like to know what she sees besides the shivering.) He’s getting really, really good news. “Of course I’m going.”

He hangs up. “Do you mind if we divert our date to a book store?”

How do I tell a grad student in literature that I hate bookstores?

Okay, I don’t hate the stores.  Or the books. I just hate the possibility of running into my ex.  Or, actually, my ex’s new wife. Well, my ex’s new wife’s books that are often about him.  (Love this whole tangent. Awesome!!) That’s right—a little over a year after the break-up of our five year relationship, Angel married famous fantasy novelist Helen Vencor.

Five. Years.

But I’m not thinking about that. I am on a date. (Freaking love where this cuts off. Dying to keep reading!)


Thank you, Kelly, for your critique. Interested in more 500 word voice workshops? Come back tomorrow for two more critiques. And get ready! The Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist Blog Hop starts July 20 with the Pitch Wars submission window opening on August 3.

Books by Kelly Siskind . . .

Chasing Crazy at Amazon  |  B&N iBooks












My Perfect Mistake at AmazonB&N  |  iBooks

Coming August 2nd, 2016 . . . A Fine Mess (Over the Top series, Book #2)



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