Thursday, February 1, 2018

What I Am I Looking For When Reading A Submission

I have talked in the past of the things I am looking for in an author when I read a submission, but I thought today that I would talk about the actual writing. What is it that I am looking for in the manuscript as well as the synopsis.

First of all, let me just say that I do read the synopsis. I know there are a lot of agents out there who say they do not, but I am one who does read that document. I read it to really get a sense of the entire story line. Remember that most of the time, I am only reading a partial of a story, so I want to get an idea of how the entire story plays out.

Now, I read these at two different times. In some cases, if it has been a while since I requested a project from a writer, I will read the synopsis, or at least the beginning of it to simply remind myself of what the story was and hopefully, what it was that intrigued me enough to want to read more of the project. The other time that I read the synopsis is when I have read a partial, like what I see, and then want to see how the story is going to finish. Please note, I look at this, if the writing has something that has caught my eye. If the writing just does not do it for me in those opening pages of 40-60 some odd pages, the odds are there is not going to be much in the synopsis that would convince me to want to read more.

When it comes to the actual writing, this is where I really dig into the story. This is where I really make some significant decisions.

One of the first things I look for is if the writer has a sense of how to write. This is not just an issue of the grammar, but an issue of whether or not the author knows why he or she is writing that way. It becomes very clear in those initial pages if the author is just inserting things because he or she was told to do so from a workshop or a book. There are a lot of times that writers will use specific techniques simply because someone said it would be a good idea to do so. While that technique might have worked in another piece of writing, it might not work here.

The second thing I look for is the knowledge of the genre. Again, I have talked about this here several times, but an author has to fully understand a genre to really be able to write it well. Multi-cultural is more than a different setting and characters with ethnic names. Scottish romances are more than kilts and saying "Doona". Regency is more than tea, the Ton and saying "La."

I am also looking at how well the author draws me into the story in those initial pages. We know that readers rarely have the patience to hold out for chapters 7, 8 or 9 for the story to get good. If you don't hook us in those first three pages, then it is over.

Finally, and this is a big one, I have to look to see how much work it will take to get the story ready to go to editors. While the premise may be great, and the writing is OK, but needs work, and the synopsis says the story has potential, I have to really see if this writing is going to be worth the 6 months to a year to get it ready. Is the author really ready for that amount of editing? Is this story going to require a complete over-haul, or just some minor tweaking. This is really a big issue. I will admit, I see a lot of stories that have some potential, but the gamble of spending this amount of time to get it ready might not be worth it.

Hope this helps with some insight into what I (and other agents) are thinking when we read your submissions.

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