Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Why We're Quiet About What We Want

A common question that is asked over and over again during those editor and agent panels is, "So what type of project are you really looking for?" When writers hear this, they all lean forward, eagerly waiting that golden gem of an answer that will get them to that coveted "published status."
Instead, they often hear, "We are looking for projects with great characters, great settings and a story that really draws us in."

Um, like, no duh! That didn't give us anything.

But here is the real rationale.

Several years ago, I was at the International Women's Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy and a writer asked just that question. One of the editors openly said she "refused to answer the question." She went on to say that her reasoning was clear. If she were to say she wanted a story about a given topic, all of the writers in the room would immediately run out and attempt to write that story. That was not what she would want. What she wanted, and what all of us want, is for an author to write (as is often described), "the best damn story you can write."

Now, there are ways to find out a bit more of what we are looking for in projects. Reviewing those submission guidelines will give you a sense of the type of story. There, you will often find a bit more other than "contemporary romance." You might find examples of the common themes or characters types we like.

Another place you might find this is on social media with the hash tag #MSWL. Every now and then an editor or agent will post a genre or a genre type he or she is looking for. Pay attention to this!

But here is the thing.... WE DON'T WANT YOU TO WRITE THE STORY.

When we make comments like this, we are hoping you might already have something equal to what we are looking for, or maybe something close to it. As agents, we might have had an editor ask us if we have anything in that genre and we are just looking for them. If the story is not written yet, don't waste your time to drop everything you are doing and write it. By the time it is finished, we have either forgotten we asked about it, or more likely, have already found it and moved on.

Look, we do tell you what we want. We try our best to give you as many specifics as possible. But in the end, we still want that story "...with great characters, great settings and a story that really draws us in." We want the best you can write!

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