Tag Archives: manuscripts

Why I recommend a “pass” instead of “you’re a genius, your work is fabulous and we should represent you!”

“Why can’t I get an agent to like my work enough to want to represent me?!” you’ve asked yourself over and over. Well, I don’t know. I really don’t. But I have compiled the top five reasons that I recommend passing on a manuscript submission:

1.  Well, poor writing is a big one. That can mean that sentences are grammatically incorrect and there are spelling and punctuation errors. But it also sometimes means that the writer doesn’t use words correctly or uses the same old, tired words, phrases and descriptions over and over again or, even worse, uses a weirdly varied vocabulary, employing words and descriptions in bizarre ways that have me envision them sitting with a thesaurus looking things up while they write.

2. Lack of tension is a biggy, too. If there’s nothing urging me forward, niggling at me to find out what’s going to happen next, pushing my fingers to get to the next page, it’s a pass. I think I’m a pretty generous reader but if I’m not even interested enough to find out what happens next, nobody else will be either.

3. Stupid/uninteresting/boring plot. Um. I don’t really have much to say about that. I guess it’s really a matter of opinion, but that’s what I’m getting paid the big bucks for. My opinion.

4. Telling with not enough showing. I can’t really say enough about this. I might have to do a whole blog post about it. I think I might have already, haven’t I? Here’s what I’m talking about: “As the interview ended Joan didn’t realize she had made a serious faux pas by flirting with Tom. She thought she had gotten the job.” OR “Joan smiled at Tom at the end of the interview, that sexy smile where the tip of her tongue showed, just touching her front teeth. ‘Well, I guess I’ll hear from you then,’ she murmured. Tom forced a neutral smile, just to be polite, stood up, his firm handshake all business, and ushered her out the door.” I mean, that was just thrown together, but you get my point, don’t you?

5. Crappy characters. This has a lot to do with #4. When I read, I’m all about the characters. I want to care about them, know something about why they do the things they do, why they say the things they say. I want to have a reason to read this manuscript and I want that reason to be because the characters are interesting enough for me to follow for 200, 300 or 400 pages. If I don’t give a shit about the characters I’m really not going to read past the first two or three chapters of the book.

Why else do you think agents (or their assistants, readers, interns and other gate keepers) pass on manuscript submissions?

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I’m floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look very different today

I once told a literary agent that he was a rock star (he wasn’t)* and just the other day on her blog a writer called Betsy Lerner (who is a really fab literary agent, author and blogger)* a rock star, too. Now, as someone who is (hopefully)* on a trajectory to being an agent but who has never wanted to be a rock star, I asked myself, “Why do writers think agents are rock stars?”

Let’s look at the two species:

Rock stars — make music; go on tour; trash hotel rooms; wear crazy clothing or leather stuff; have their pictures in the trash mags; drink too much; marry models or Europeans or European models or are British; do heavy drugs; either OD, go to rehab or just hang around looking all skanky; write autobiographies about being rock stars, etc…

Literary agents — read manuscripts; negotiate deals; have coffee; read more manuscripts; edit manuscripts; drown in queries; drink too much; go to writing conferences; lurk on Twitter; do lunch; chase down royalty checks;  hang out in bookstores and fraternize with librarians, read more manuscripts, etc…

So, besides the cocktails, what do these two things have in common? I don’t get it.

(I might be lying about not wanting to be a rock star. Once, way back in the ’80s, I cut my hair just like David Bowie.)*

*WTF is with all the freakin’ parenthetical comments?! I’m annoying myself.

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