I don’t have to tell you what a competitive business writing is. Agents and editors days are filled reading lots of stories. Secretly, they hope they’ll find a gem among the slush pile, but bottom line is, it’s in their nature to reject anything that has amateur written all over it.
That’s not to say they won’t take a writer with potential on board or under their wing, but there are tell-tale signs that alert them to your secret about this is our first or maybe second, manuscript.
I tell my students, never give them a reason to reject you and here are four tips to swing things in your favor.
In today’s new world of publishing, sometimes all you can send an agent or editor is a query letter. Lots of writers overlook the simple fact that this is your one and only chance to draw them in, win them over and convince them they want to see your story…well, at least three chapters of it.
Besides polishing the pitch like you do your story, don’t put signs in the letter that says, I’m beginning writer and I haven’t got a clue.
I say never lie, but don’t draw their attention to the fact you’ve never been published, never had anything published.
I’ve seen some with the following….I can’t get anything published, I hoping this time will be different and it’s my dream to be a writer.
Or my husband, wife, my dog or cat, in fact, everyone, loves this story and I know you will too.
Avoid, I write just like….insert famous author’s name here.
Or the deadly. This is sure to be a bestseller making you millions.
Okay, enough said about query letters.
Lack of Transitions
Call this my pet peeve as a teacher and that’s lack of transitions in a story. Those smooth movements from one scene to another, one time in the story to another, two new characters entering the scene. Sometimes I read work where I haven’t got a clue if it’s a new day, new place, even a new planet and I have to re-read the scene or a whole chapter to figure it out. One minute it’s Jack and Jill going up the hill and then in the next sentence they’re at the beach.
I stay with the story because I’m getting paid to do it, but if an editor or agent has to re-read anything, (besides it being the best prose they’ve ever encountered), then your story’s coming back to you.
He, She Did Anything But
Use the word ‘said’.
An editor once told me as readers the word said slips into the background as we glide across the page.
However stick in words like shouted, screamed and they stick out like a sore thumb and yes, shout amateur.
If you’ve taken one of my classes, been or are a private student, you’re rolling your eyes right now saying, she’s getting on her reaction soapbox again.
Fiction is based on real life and just like real life we never interact with the world or people without reacting to what they say or do.
For example, if someone lets the door slam in your face you’re going to react. It could be something like shouting at them. You rude beep, beep, beep. Or you’re going to react with thinking, what a rude beep, beep, beep.
If someone came up to you and slapped you on the face, you’re going to react by either hitting them back or calling the police and filing assault charges against them and so should your character.
Real people don’t live in a vacuum, unable or unwilling to react to the world around them and neither should characters.
If they don’t then you’re letting an agent or editor know you’re an amateur.