Agents Crying – They can’t (cannot) find a word wrong.

©The publishing world is so full of grumpy literary agents it is hard to find one that will stop drinking coffee because they get involved in the plot you have created – that’s if they get past the first page. Writing is such a complex art because we are creating our story and characters in the first instance to please ourselves. However, when the story is finished it has to appeal to other readers as well. And while we are dealing with that we are also remembering all the rules of writing – and bending a few of them as we develop our personal skills. So how do we catch the agent’s eye? I have read several times that a lot of agents will read the MS first and if they like what they read they will then read the synopsis/plot. There is a good reason for this. They are not looking to read about the plot or the opening scene. They are reading to assess your writing skills in general even if you are describing a gate swinging in the breeze.

Imagine if you will you are at the cinema and you are watching Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Frenzy.’ I pick this movie because I was in the excited crowd of fans on the first day’s shoot. A helicopter flew along the Thames getting lower and lower until it flew under the Tower Bridge and hovered. The camera man slowly focused in on the small strip of shingle at the water’s edge – it was low tide - and panned sideways to reveal the nude body of a young, blonde woman. The camera then panned up to the South Bank where a politician was guffing on about something or other. Cut! That whole filmed scene was continuous.

Now imagine you are writing that scene. You are trying to put the colour, imagery, mystery and shock onto the first page so that the agent will read on. Close your eyes and go through each stage of the opening page and write each part as you go along. Now you have the scene established and read it out loud, (Agents do). Are there too many adjectives and verbs? Can you eliminate any and can you replace others.

From ‘The First Five Pages’ by Noah Lukeman. “In the dark, cold, restraining jail, Joe felt sad, angry and hurt.”

Get rid of dark and restraining and you are left with cold, a word that conveys all three descriptions about a jail. A jail is restraining anyway. With sad, angry and hurt pick the one you like most. Overdoing descriptive work by throwing in more adjectives and adverbs etc. is a red flag to the agent. There are always other words too that you can cut out altogether.

Writing a book is not about the word-count. Sentences should be concise. Each word should have a purpose to move the story along. That’s (That is - or is That’s okay?) Each word should be the right word. Each page should take as long as it takes to make it as perfect as can be.

The next time you use the Word Analysis Grid read the report on your work regardless whether your piece is on the grid or not. You are told, even if you are on the grid, how to improve that work. Next time, do not (Don’t) be satisfied with ‘on the grid.’ See if you can move the work more to the centre. Each time you do this you are adding more information to the sub-conscious and next time you will be that much better. Now – go and book a chapter. 

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I've said it before and learnt from experience. Getting on the grid is not enough. Good point Ray about getting closer to the centre. I haven't done this yet but I'm getting there.
Well done Ken. I think we should all put a little more effort in - go from senior writer to graduate by hitting the center square every time.