Friday, May 15, 2009

What Agents Hate to See in the Slush Pile

I found this interesting article on the Guide to Literary Agents blog, an excellent writing resource, and one of the few blogs that I subscribe to. The topic was Agents and the Slushpile: Ten Reasons they Stop Reading, and I thought I'd share it with you.

Here are the top 10:

10. Overdone description that doesn’t move the story forward
9. Spoon-feeding the reader what the character is thinking
8. Having the characters address each other repeatedly by name, as in, “John, let’s go!”
7. Introducing a character with first and last name, as in, “John Smith entered the room.”
6. Beginning a story with dialogue
5. Opening with a cliché
4. Yanking the reader out of the action with backstory
3. Not giving the reader a sense of place or where the story is going
2. Characters are MIA until bottom of page 2
1. Telling instead of showing

Lots of these are items we've discussed in our Ten -Point Revision Strategy. Lots of great points we need to keep our eyes on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rewriting the novel - quotes from our peers

At the moment, I'm kind of in writing stasis. The novel has been mailed out to agents, and I'm waiting for that special person to fall in love with it. I've done most of the research for the new novel, but haven't begun the actual writing process as I've been too busy taking care of other projects.

My father, with whom I wrote the TriEnergetics book ( has formulated an idea for another book, so I need to write and prepare a non-fiction proposal. Very different than a fiction query. My Ripple Effect partner ( and I are in the finalizing portion of forming a new business for the Ripple, so I need to write a business plan. And finally, I have some long lecture trips coming up this month, so I need to write and prepare some lectures.

All of which keeps me from writing.

But I'll get there. We'll write off May as a lost-writing month, but come June, I hope to be roaring back.

In the meantime, I found these quotes from your fellow writing peers on the internet and thought I'd share them with you, a way of sharing the anguish you feel about your rewrite. Let me know if any of these resonate with you, and also let me know how you're doing on your rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting.)

Tips on Rewriting From Your Peers

"At this point, it seems that no matter how far away I get from the work of rewriting (lawyering during the day, playing music at night, watching TV with my son, etc), I am always having thoughts and ideas about changing the bar room scene to this way or revising the dialogue between MC and chick #2 that way. Too often these flashes of utter brilliance would dissolve as quickly as they appeared. Unfortunately, they lack the manners to appear only when I am at the computer.
So I carry a tiny digital voice recorder at all times. After carrying it for a while, I've found it increasingly easier for my mind to summon chunks of text from the draft and to think through rewrites in my head, which I then articulate into the recorder. This has yielded some exhilarating results and improved my time management too."
- Peter

"A well-published author read an early ms of mine and gave me the best tip I've ever had. 'This is good,' he said, 'but more color, more smell.' "
- David

"I know one thing - revision is just that: a new vision. The story changes and grows during that process and there are many surprises for the writer. Another friend compared the revision process to a pop-bead necklace. You find the thread that runs through the book. Then you pick and choose what beads to string on that thread. Some you will put aside, some you will keep, sometimes you’ll have to find brand new beads not used before."
- Sharon

"From Stephen King's memoir On Writing: An editor wrote to him on a rejected manuscript: "2nd draft = 1st draft - 10%. Good luck." This has always helped me. In the first draft you simply write the story. Get it down and out and properly archived. Then go back later and operate. One last point, also from Master King, is to be sure and let your first draft rest after it's written. Save it on your thumb drive, your hard drive, and on paper and walk away from it. Don't even think about it for at least a month. Chronological and psychological distance are key to the revision process."
- Ted

"Don't look at (rewriting) as a daunting task. If you do, you will feel like you will never get it done - and I know people who don't. I am one of these writers who personally loves editing and this is why: I think of my end result. I can see just how great my story is going to be once all the polish is on and it's glossy and shiny."
- Madison

"When I'm ready to do a rewrite, I read the 'original' out loud and anywhere I stumble--that gets changed/rewritten/deleted or at the very least fixed so it can read more smoothly. And along this line, reading to a mirror (of what you think might be your last rewrite) helps you get used to reading to an audience (even if it's only an audience of one) and picks up even more rough spots."
- Dia

"My suggestions: 1) Don't rewrite until you've finished the first draft. 2) Take a break. This way, when you come back to it, you can get that lovely feeling of it being written by someone else - and therefore fair game for criticism and cutting! 3) Use a good thesaurus if you must, or really work at re-thinking what you want to communicate - this will bring up some great language, and improve your style."
- Drew

"It is in rewrites that love of language is expressed. First drafts are for inspiration, concept, and organization. Then the fun part comes - get the details right."
- Gene

"Once I have committed to write about the contents, it then becomes a part of my life. There of course is the initial composition. Then I put it aside for a month or two and perform a re-write. Put that re-write aside for the same period of time and do it again. Ad infinitum, until it's press time."
- Bob