Thursday, March 28, 2013
7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter(This info was sent to me by email. Read the full article at Writer Digest. Just click at the bottom.)
This guest newsletter is by Livia Blackburne, who attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest.
Previously, I attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback.
This is how it worked: An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first 250 words out loud for the panel and the audience. If at any point a panelist felt he would stop reading, he raised his hand. The actress read until two or more panelists raised their hands, at which point the panel discussed the reasons they stopped, or in cases where the actress read to the end, they discussed what worked. Helene Atwan (Director of Beacon Press) and agents Esmond Harmsworth, Eve Bridburg, and Janet Silver (all from Zachary Shuster Harmsworth) served on the panel.
These panelists were tough! I'd say less than 25% made it to the end of the passage. Here are some of the common reasons panelists stopped reading.
1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn't really inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you're writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.
2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.
3. Trying too hard: Sometimes it seemed like a writer was using big words or flowery prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. In several cases, the writer used big words incorrectly. Awkward or forced imagery was also a turnoff. At one point, the panelists raised their hands when a character's eyes were described as "little lubricated balls moving back and forth."