Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Signs In A Submission When The Answer Will Be No

One of the questions that came up at the recent conference during a panel discussion was how, as an agent, we realize that the project is simply not going to work. The writer wanted to know beyond whether or not the story was the right genre or word count. She wanted to really know what it was about the actual writing that gave us a hint.

This is always a tough question to answer. Decisions like this really aren't that black and white. In other words, the idea that "if I do it this way it is a yes, and if I do it this way, it is a no." Sure, we wish it were that easy, but...

One of the points I brought up dealt with the execution of the story and the writing. There are really a lot of times when an author really has a great idea for a story, but it comes down to how the author wrote the story. For me, one of the things I really see is how "elementary" the writing sounds. Let me explain it this way.

Writers can take course after course, workshop after workshop and read everything they can about writing. They can know terminology and technique. But what separates the "elementary" writer from the more advanced writer is the ability of the author to know why and how those skills work in the story. These authors know the impact of using that skill on the readers.

Too often, we see stories where it becomes clear the author has been told that "this strategy" or "that strategy" is the right way to do something. Sure, these could be great approaches to writing, but the stronger advanced writers know the situation to use it.

When we see this, the writing really comes across as being forced and lacking in that strong narrative voice. It is almost robotic in nature. It is really for this reason that we can often make a decision about a story within the first three chapters. Yes, I know you would want us to read the whole thing, but in reality, the odds are that you did not suddenly figure out how to use that strategy in Chapter 4.

I bring this up because this is really one of those cases where writers need to take some more time to learn their craft and learn the business before submitting to editors and agents. Take your time. Figure it out.

And how will you know? Trust your gut instinct. All of a sudden, in the middle of your writing, the light will come on and you will say to yourself, "OMG! It was that easy?" Yes it was.

1 comment:

  1. In this era of instant gratification writers don't want to know the 'real' reason their work is rejected, they simply want the 'secret' to getting published. I have two critique partners that are in robotic mode and their work is lifeless. I never knew how to describe what was wrong, but I think robotic fits the bill.