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The Not-to-Do List

Kristin Nelson's blog Pub Rants tipped me off to a Writer's Digest post on things that agents hate to see in submissions.

Kristin's entry is pretty funny: “In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.”

Certainly a logical objection! Some of the other suggestions of things to avoid are more generic (agents dislike prologues, too much description, and an opening chapter in which nothing happens). Some particularly good advice, I thought was to avoid trying to get the character’s backstory on the page before the plot gets to it on its own. Agent Rachelle Gardner, of WordServe Literary, summed it up this way:

"Getting to know characters in a story is like getting to know people in real life. You find out their personality and details of their life over time.”

Good advice!






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Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
jl_johnson
Oct. 1st, 2008 06:15 pm (UTC)
I know, I read that and really liked it. The thing that surprises me, is these poor people must be inindated with stories like this, to have such a hatred for them.

I went through the first chapter of my novel just to make sure none of these points were there. lol, hopefully, they're not.
karen_w_newton
Oct. 1st, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
Well, you know, I do have one with a prologue. I am reluctant to cut it though, because it takes place 70 years before the main part of the story. I could call it chapter 1, but that makes chapter 2 kind of jarring.

the backstory stuff is so true! I really had ot unlearn that when I was starting.
jl_johnson
Oct. 1st, 2008 06:28 pm (UTC)
Lol, truth be told, I have one too. As a matter of fact, just posted the last two parts on OWW this morning.

But this makes me wonder, why do they hate prolouges so much? Is it nothing but page after page of info dump to them? I dont' think I've ever heard a good explanation as to why agents/editors dislike them.

I always thought a prologues was a 'story before the story'. Is this the wrong definition?

lol, quick reply btw....
karen_w_newton
Oct. 1st, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
My definition was always it needed to be a prologue if the action takes place well before the main story, and/or it had a different cast of characters that didn't appear in the main story. It was a away to alert the reader to expect something different when the story itself starts.

I think they are despised because they are overused. Some writers think they make the story look more important, I guess. So, like medication, use only when truly necessary.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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