Monday, April 18, 2016

When Do We Stop Reading Your Manuscript

One question that I always get from writers is when I stop reading a submission. At what point does an editor or agent make that decision that the project is simply not going to work? Surprisingly, this decision can be made very early in the reading. Obviously, if the story is really good, we will just keep on reading to the end. But there are a lot of things that show up early on in the story that will immediately tell us this project is just not going to work.

Now, I know what a lot of you might be thinking. But my story gets better as we move on. That might be the case, but for readers, the general public is simply not going to sit around and wait for it to get better.

As I read a project, those first several pages give me a good sense of your skills as a writer as well as your voice. We can see if you have the ability to go to your "writer's toolbox" and select the best strategy or tool that is right for that situation. On the other hand, I can see early on if you are doing things in your story because you were told "that is what you are supposed to do." This style of writing sounds very elementary and demonstrates your skills as a writer.

I will also make that decision if those early pages lack the polish due to grammar and punctuation errors. The assumption is that those early pages have been edited a lot, and if we are finding a large number of mistakes in those early pages, what would the rest of the story look like?

We can often make those decisions early on with the query letter and even the synopsis. Remember that the query letters give us a glimpse of who you are as a person. We want to know we can work with you and you will work with us. We also want someone who is a professional.

As far as the synopsis goes, if I read a partial and I am thinking there might be some potential, I will read the synopsis and see how the story unfolds. Maybe those first three chapters are "golden." But, as I read the synopsis, I end up seeing the story line completely falls apart. It is here where we have to ask if the story can be fixed, or if it is in a situation of no hope?

The point is, we would love to say we can and will read your whole story, but in truth, as we make decisions, we really don't have to. The submission process is just like applying for any other job. We know that employers only look at resumes for 30 seconds or so. We also know that the decision to not hire a person is often made in the first 7 seconds of that interview.

So, look at your submission. Look at your story with an objective eye and ask yourself, "Would I hire this person." If not, fix those problems before sending things out to the editors and agents.

1 comment:

  1. I love that advice: "Look at your story with an objective eye and ask yourself, "Would I hire this person?"