Encouragement, Writing

Seven of Many Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject Your MS

Reasons Why Lit Agents Reject MS (iWriterly)

In my neverending quest to move my manuscript (MS) to a literary agent and onto publication, I read info from a few ‘writerly’ resources. One of these stores of knowledge comes from Meg La Torre of iWriterly YouTube videos. I love that she gets to the point, the videos are brief but cover the subject, and she puts out new info every week.

One of the latest videos features seven lit agents who give their top three reasons why they reject manuscripts. Now, a few of the items are what we writers often hear: show don’t tell, character voice, and info dumps, but this latest video (December 4, 2019) gives us many more points.

The following are a few screenshots of the video:

The first page means the first 250 words
  1. Strong first page. Here are some criteria developed over at Flogging the Quill:

    A First-page Checklist

    • It begins to engage the reader with the character
    • Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
    • The character desires something.
    • The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
    • There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
    • (Go to the site for more)
  1.  Editorial Vision

Does the Lit Agent have the Editorial Vision

This area also includes editing issues: too many problems with pacing, issues with point of view, talking heads, or amateur writing.

 3. Expectations. Did the writer deliver on the query representation?

Your query highlighted specific goals, stakes, or story, but your first ten pages don’t reflect your representation. This may be a problem of not starting in the right place, a slow pace, or an info dump instead of starting in the now.

4. Is Your Story Idea Unique Enough?

Is Your MS unique, fresh?

What distinguishes your novel from the hundreds of other fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novels out in the bookstores. Is your book told in a fresh way? What makes it new and exciting in an oversaturated genre? Remember, the agent has to ‘sell’ your MS to an editor and team.

5. Problematic Content. Harmful stereotypes, offensive representation.

Problematic Representation

If this area isn’t clear to you, perhaps you can read about the need for a sensitivity reader.  The person should be able to spot cultural inaccuracies, stereotypes, bias issues, or problematic language. This doesn’t cover only ethnicities, but areas of gender, abilities, etc.

In my writing group of seven women (a diverse group of Anglo, Latinx, bi-racial, and multi-ethnic), we spot problem areas and learn from each other, including having a sensitivity reader if we believe this will improve the MS.

   6.  Plot and Character Arcs

This can be anything from a lack of change in the character, plot holes, inconsistencies in the timeline, or jumping around too much in the storyline. Does your novel have enough conflict, does the conflict raise the stakes in the story, does the character act and react through the story, so we know what she’s thinking or why she’s taking action. Do we care?

7. World Building

Building the world begins on the first page. This is difficult because you don’t want to dump a whole lot of info but enough to provide context to the reader. The setting allows your reader to visualize the environment and characters better. This is a critical area for fantasy, speculative, sci-fi writers who must construct an imaginary world.

To learn more about the reasons, lit agents reject an MS, watch the presentation. If you click the “Show More” beneath the video on the iWriterly YouTube page, you will see a list of the participating agents and links to their agencies and social media.

Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful for any of my blog followers who are writers. Keep on writing!

Writing

How an Instagram Challenge Improved My Writing Life

The battle proved long but victorious.

She Writes Press came up with a challenge for writers at the end of April and I thought, ‘why not.’ This seemed to be an easy way to post on social media and see what other people experienced in their writing life.

Scanning my feed on Instagram is quick because I don’t follow a bunch of people, after weeding out those men who post 101 selfie pics. Some guys use Instagram and FaceBook like online dating sites. Not interested.

But back to the topic and the 31-Day Challenge:

WhySheWrites Challenge

The questions lent themselves to introspection, figuring out how to show an answer, and exposing some of the more challenging parts of the writing life.

Here are a few of my Instagram responses.

Share the reason you write:

Growing up, I didn’t read any books with Latina characters who reflected my experiences until I was in college. Those books were few and far between, written mostly by men.

So when I began recording my words (about ten years ago), I found myself writing about loss, abandonment, and other challenges encountered by women and girls to amplify their strength and resilience. In doing so, I increased my own.

 

Why I write? alvaradofrazier.com

Share a photo of your writing space:

My grand-kitty Heidi Ho lets me know when she thinks I’m staying too long at my laptop. She has a routine: jump on my chair, leap to my desk, and if I’m still typing she wedges herself behind my computer where she glares and meows until I shut it and pay attention to her; which means taking her outside in the garden to stalk lizards.

She helps me balance my writing day.

 

Share your writing space.

 

What is the first/worse job you’ve ever had:

My first job and my worse job involve strawberries. I grew up in and live in the strawberry capital of the nation. Mom made us work in the strawberry fields, para que sepas (so you’ll know). We had accompanied her on weekends to pick walnuts before but picking strawberries at age 11 or 12 was harder. Walnut trees had shade. The strawberry fields went on forever, the heat blasting your back, the hot dirt. I lasted two days.

My worse job was working in the strawberry packing house on the graveyard shift the summer before college. I was not well treated by older women. As far as they were concerned, I took a job away from a mother, but that was the only decent paying two-month job I could find at seventeen.

I sorted strawberries on a conveyor belt while standing for eight hours. The cold water running through the belt splashed with each rotten or damaged strawberry I flicked into the dirty reservoir. The best fruit went to Japan, and the rest were sorted by better, good, average, and jam.

Overhead fluorescent lights beamed down, making the warehouse seem otherworldly at three in the morning. Strawberry and dirt odors lingered on my body the entire day and in my sleep.

What is your first and your worse job?

 

Women writers who inspire you:

There are so many, so I listed the ones who authored the books I buy/borrow. Usually, I have three or more books written by the same author.

 

Share one line from your own writing:

She was sober enough to remember that liquor and men were a bad combination, but drunk enough to think she could drive.

I’m glad I took the challenge, and in the process, I found out more about my own writing life and what informs my writing.

Finding several like-minded people, who run the spectrum of age, life experience, and writing backgrounds, was a plus and illustrated how the ‘social’ in social media work.

Over on the right hand column I list my Instagram and Twitter account links if you’d like to visit my sites or follow me so I can follow you.

Thanks for reading.

Encouragement, Writing

How to Murder a Draft, Resurrect A Better Story

 

 

Do you ever want to throw your work in progress away? Chuck the manuscript you’ve worked on for years?

If you’re a writer, you’ve been there and done that.

The last few months I’ve taken writing classes with an editor, Toni Lopopolo and her assistant, Lisa Angle. We’re a small group of writers who brave the weekly sessions with Toni and Lisa so we can become better writers.

I’ve learned I must swing a machete through a draft to become a better writer.

Wield your writing machete like Danny Trejo

Machete-wielding is a dirty job. You must be merciless. This will hurt, but it’s for your own good.

These tips will help you murder your draft:

  1. Pluck out backstory in the first pages.
  2. Delete the flowery prose that serves no purpose. This includes adverbs and -ing words.
  3. Hack out the ‘terrible 20‘ words that result in the passive voice.
  4. Throw away the ‘filler words.‘ They’re the excess fat.
  5. Cut out the numerous body parts “Her head swiveled,” “eyes squinted,” “eyebrows arched.”
  6. Take out stage directions disguised as physical movements.
  7. Remove events that don’t affect the goal. Either it doesn’t belong or the writer hasn’t communicated its importance.
  8. Slash the conversational dialogue.

These tips can revive your murdered or half-dead draft:

  1. Read “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Browne and Dave King, before you start your revisions.
  2. The story must start on the first page.
  3. Write in scenes. A scene has a beginning, middle, and end (mini-arc). Each scene must drive the story forward. Tips on how to write a scene.
  4. Events, characters, description all must mean something. Remember Chekov’s gun?
  5. Enter a scene with the story already in motion, then leave early with an important outcome left hanging.
  6. Put a comma before ‘said,’ and a period before or after an action.
  7. Add danger and desire for drama or tension.
  8. Pump in great dialogue that’s confrontational, with opposing agendas. This drives the story forward.

Check out Toni’s website and find many more tips.

I enjoyed this presentation: The Most Important Writing Skill to Master and ‘What is Voice.”

Thanks for reading, double thanks for sharing this post. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Encouragement, Writers, Writing, writing tips

The Dangers of the Helicopter #Writer

golf balls with letters
WRITER-Photo by Dave Morrison, flickr.com, cc

 

I’m writing a story about a twenty-one-year-old young woman. In the midst of writing it, I think damn she’s making a lot of mistakes and I begin to edit some of the stuff out until it dawns on me the character is twenty-one.

I have this ‘thing,’ in my writing, I’ll admit it.  I try to protect my main character.

This happens in the first draft. When I re-read the chapter, I realize I’ve made worse mistakes than the character I’m writing about and I lived another day.

I’ve been soft on the main character. I haven’t pushed her. 

So I have to quit the coddling the protagonist because I’m being a helicopter writer. (Same as helicopter parent but with an imaginary child). And that never turns out well.

typewriter, pen, journal, paper
The Dangers Of The Helicopter Writer – Photo by Dustin Lee, unsplash.com cc

From my own experience, here are some of the signs of a hovering writer:

  1. Boring writing: The writer is afraid to look beyond and beneath the surface. They are afraid to dig and go deeper into the mind of the main character. What will they do with all that emotion? The story then becomes dull. Good fiction has to entertain you, arouse your curiosity and get you into the story.
  2. No character growth: If the writer doesn’t allow the character to fail, what does she learn? This is like with parenting and allowing our kids to fail which helps them to learn from their mistakes.
  3. Nothing bad happens: A reader stops reading. Facebook, Instagram, and the kitties on YouTube are more interesting.
  4. No drama: might as well turn on the television and watch a telenovela.
  5. The character is two-dimensional: She speaks, she acts but she doesn’t feel. There are no emotional wounds and consequently, we feel nothing for the character.

Back to my 21-year-old protagonist. She thinks mistakes are the end of the world. And they are, at least the end of her world as she knows it.  She thinks no one else can relate and doesn’t let anyone help her. Remember the arrogance of youth?

This is the point where a writer can push the character and ask the what if questions.

What if the character takes the situation into her own hands? Her depressed, angry, shaky hands.

But if I hover and don’t let her take the situation into her own hands how will the reader know that her struggle allows her to grow? By allowing her to do dumb stuff, like when she tries to control what’s going on, she finds that things don’t turn out like she wanted them to. Life gets worse.

This time in-between where we think our mistakes are the end of the world is the story I’m trying to tell. The space between happiness and misery.

If the character didn’t make the mistakes, what’s the point of the story? If I coddle her, how will I or the reader know how far she’ll go to get what she wants?

Will she realize that she can move past the crappiness of the mistake? Can she move forward,  poco a poco? Little by little?

A helicopter writer won’t discover this for their character if they keep hovering. The character won’t be pushed to make a hard choice or be challenged. Neither will the writer.

Worse, the writer will find they just wasted hundreds of hours writing a story that went nowhere.

Take a look at this quiz from Fiction University, about suffering from Nice Writer Syndrome. This is another form of helicopter writing.

Writing characters can be similar to parenting your children. A dose of tough love can help them develop character, uniqueness, and growth.

Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote
Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote

Be brave.