Friday, April 13, 2012

When Do I Know When I Have A GREAT Story

This is an interesting question we as agents are frequently asked (and I know the editors are probably asked this as well). "When do we know that a submitted manuscript is THE ONE?" At what point in the reading process do we sense something.

I can only speak for myself on this one, but it really is a gut instinct and, in many cases, shows up with the initial submission to the agency. Here at Greyhaus, that first submission is simply a query letter with a great blurb. There have been a lot of times that I see something in that blurb that really seems to identify this is a great piece. In most cases, it is the premise of the story that stands out. If it is a romance, I see something that stands out with the relationship. If it is women's fiction, I see a story that seems to be about a real person with a significant issue. So I request more. In most cases, this is only a partial. I do request fulls but this is a limited basis. When I do this, it is often because I am looking specifically for a project like this, or that blurb really screams to me.

Now, when it comes to reading the submission, if and when it shows up (more on this later), I know I have the project when I simply cannot put the project down. I will find a way to move my schedule around just to read more. The characters are real. The writing is not forced and full of conventions the writer clearly learned in a workshop. In other words, when I read it, I am sucked into the story.

Think of it this way. When you watch a movie and find the entire world around you disappear. Sounds, scents and other distractions disappear. You are with the characters 100% of the way. That is an amazing story.

I also find that I cannot help telling someone else about the characters or the premise. I want to share what I read. That is a great story!.

You will notice that in no way am I saying the plot does sopmething specific, or the characters are a specific type (Alpha or Beta males), it is the complete package.

Now, as far as that earlier comment I made about if and when the projects show up. This is probably one of the most disappointing things we as agents face. We see a project and the author simply doesn't send it. They may have cold feet. They may not have finished the project. Who knows. They simply don't send it.

Hope that helps. Enjoy the weekend and I'll see you online on Monday!



  1. This is one of the best posts about writing someone has ever written. "Not learned at a writer's workshop, and you can't put it down". This echoed so strongly in me. My publisher's first words to me, ever, were, "We totally believe in your project. You've written a gem."
    Same thing.

  2. Great post, Scott--thanks for sharing this. It's a question I've been pondering a lot lately (getting ready to query), and you provide great input here.