Dear readers and writers -
Thank you for all the wonderful submissions referred by Natalie last month! I've had a delicious month reading romance, romance, romance! Just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work and for considering me in your agent hunt.
Here are the results:
I read 75 partials (still have a few in my database, but not many)
I asked for 3 fulls
if I sign any new clients, I will definitely let Natalie know
Of the partials that I read, there were three main reasons for passes - I thought I would share my notes in case it helps. These notes are not true of all submissions of course, but were more of a general observation.
1) stories that opened with dialogue in which the purpose of that dialogue was to "explain" the story to the reader:
ex. (and I am making this example up - it's not taken from any real submission)
"Fred, how could you? You know that mom and dad sent us here to Wisconsin specifically so you could learn how to get along with others and stop fighting!"
"But Sally, I've just had such a hard time since mom's cancer and I don't like anyone here in Wisconsin anyway"
To me, this feels like an awkward way to introduce a story to the reader, so it was one reason why I passed on some partials.
2) occasionally, I saw examples of weak writing right up front. Yes, as an agent, I could "edit" this kind of thing. But, if I see it up front, then I'll gamble that it's throughout the book. An editor at a publishing house would pass on a book for weak writing and therefore so will I.
ex. (again, making this up)
James looked out across the mesa. James picked up his coffee cup and took a sip of the hot liquid. He didn't know what was next in life, but he felt overwhelmed. James felt like this a lot.
Obviously, no submission is perfect. But, if I saw too much of these kinds of mistakes (poor use of pronouns and "telling" the reader what James is feeling instead of showing us), then I would pass on the sample.
3) data dump. This is the number one reason that I pass on projects submitted to the agency in general. I know it's really hard to integrate backstory and get the reader "into" the story. But, editors will only read 30-50 pages before nixing a work, and that's how important those first 30-50 are. So, there is no room for datadump especially upfront.
ex. (again, not taken from anything specifically)
Gretchen was an only child and the last chance for the Duchess to produce an heir. She's been sent to boarding school, trained to perform, pampered, educated, pushed and prodded. And yet, she was 22 and single. Her mother was losing her patience and Gretchen was losing her confidence. Really, there was only another month until her 23rd birthday and her mother was insisting on throwing a big ball in an effort to attract suitors.
I hope my thoughts and notes are useful and I wish you all Happy Writing!
Nelson Literary Agency
Good stuff, huh? I've struggled with all three of these things. My first manuscript was a lovely little story that began with a gigantic info dump. I did learn a lot from writing it though and I'm glad I didn't give up after the first attempt. Practice. Practice. Practice. The more we write the better we get!
I hope you all have a great July and I'll see you in August.