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The Seven Sins of Novel Rejection

From the Desk of Agent Richard Curtis   *****  (Best of Writer's Edge) "The truth is that if all other things are equal, the author with better writing skills is the one who will rise out of the pack. " As the stakes continue to rise in the publishing business, writers are adopting a wide range of strategies to advance themselves out of the midlist and onto better-selling plateaus. I myself have recommended a number of such strategies. Recently, however, as I respond again and again to the question of what one can do to escape midlist oblivion, it's begun to dawn on me that many writers have been ignoring the most obvious answer: write better .  The truth is that if all other things are equal, the author with better writing skills is the one who will rise out of the pack. Instead of reviewing what's selling these days and who is buying it, I thought it might be worth reminding you about some of the most common and flagrant writing transgressi
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Eight Best Prep Steps to Take Prior to Querying Agents

Because we get asked about the query process quite often.  Here is our take on the smartest way to go about it. As a bonus, you learn a lot of insider knowledge about the business (like who is in "the club" and who is not--see below) along the way. You might also come to the realization that your ms is not yet ready. Such illumination is always a positive thing.

Experiments in High Impact Narrative - Jerzy, Ralph, Italo, and Graves

Once more, the classics speak to us. What is one of the primary reasons novels get rejected? The narrative is too passive. It  ultimately falls flat, quiet and dull. Details are insufficient, metaphors lacking, lack of energy obvious, circumstances predictable (see also Narrative Enhancement via Nabokov ). So what to do? At WE we believe in learning from great authors whose shoulders we stand on. Therefore, we've developed a means of addressing this issue. We wish you to seek inspiration from the prose extractions below and utilize them for purposes of defeating passivity via emulation. In other words, you will intentionally choose and compose fictional subject matter for your novel that entertains, frightens, or enthralls the reader. And how? By creating a circumstance, place, thing, or event that is unique and curious  by virtue of its very nature . Let's engage in a few writing "prompts." You must prod the imagination and peel the onion. By the way, in the contex

Writing Novel Scenes A to Z - Drama, Sex, and Sass

So now you're writing the novel, or rewriting it, or preparing to?   There is so much to consider your head has exploded and now you're groping for the parts. Nevertheless, we strongly recommend in this phase somewhere between false confidence and mortifying epiphany that you wisely execute your novel a scene at a time. No better organizing principle than this. Forget chapters, for the moment. Know that each scene serves a purpose, often more than one, e.g., pushing the plot forward while introducing a major secondary character. Each scene also evolves with its own beginning, middle, and end (see the steamy example below). Btw, if you've not yet done so, great idea to absorb the Six Act Two-Goal Novel before continuing. Also, please review the First Ten Steps , as well as our crucial articles on setting , antagonists , and delivering exposition . Why? Because the points below will make way more sense if viewed in the proper context. KEY CONCEPTS : story premi

Settings Are 60% - Maximize Opportunity

When considering your novel, whether taking place in a contemporary urban world or on a distant magical planet in Andromeda, you must first sketch the best overall setting and sub-settings for your story.  Wasn't it F. Scott Fitzgerald who said something like, "Setting is 60% of what makes your novel stand out"? A great setting maximizes opportunities for interesting characters, circumstances, and complications. Therefore, with a dash of unleashed imagination and a dose of sufficient research, nothing provides a stronger novel foundation than a great setting. Fact.  One of the best selling contemporary novels in recent memory, THE HUNGER GAMES , is driven by the circumstances of the setting, and the characters are a product of that unique environment as well as the plot. But even if you're not writing SFF, the choice of setting is just as important, perhaps even more so. If you must place your upmarket story in a sleepy little town in Maine winter, then choose a set

Aspiring Authors and the Epiphany Light

A WATERSHED EVENT FOR SERIOUS WRITERS Whatever the stage of your project or writing life, know that all writers, if they desire to become commercially published, must see and enter the Epiphany Light. First of all, what is the "Epiphany Light"?  The EL is a state of mind crucial to any aspiring author desirous of commercial or serious literary publication, and one which clearly divides the 99% from the 1% of those who've learned the hard way how challenging it is to have their expertise and projects taken seriously by professionals in the publishing business. But are the percentages so drastic as depicted here? Yes, and probably even more so.  Consider the very small number of first time authors who emerge with publishing contracts from major houses, imprints, or even well-regarded traditional presses, and then compare these few hundred to the hundreds of thousands of writers in America struggling valiantly yet vainly to accomplish the same feat.  Viewe

Dialogue - Never a Gratuitous Word or Boring Moment

For starters... Let's place this in a context rarely mentioned elsewhere. At such time dialogue becomes difficult or perplexing for writers to produce, it's usually because they have failed on some level to create interesting characters in the first place, or because they do not properly understand the role of each relevant character in the scene (please stop and read this article now if you've not already done so), or both. To complicate further, the writer may not actually understand the role of the scene in the novel. Put these three conditions together and artful dialogue becomes impossible regardless of other factors . KEY CONCEPTS : screenplay emulation, dialogue as art, the LED, major functions of dialogue, delivery of exposition, dialogue arc, character style, tags and ellipses, provocations and disagreements, the foil character, dialogue samples. Initial Admonitions But let's assume the first three conditions above have been met. So where

The Six Act Two-Goal Novel

What makes for good drama is a constant. To begin, we combine Siegal's "nine act structure - two goal" screenplay (very much like the Syd Field three act except that the "reversal" from Field's structure joins "Act 5" in Siegal's version) with the Field classic three act. The Two-Goal Structure, Siegal maintains, creates more dynamic plot tension due to the insertion of PLOT REVERSAL later in the story. We concur.  NOTE:  "Plot Point" is defined here as a major occurrence that emphatically changes the course of the story. In the genre novel as a whole, we see three to five major plot points depending on various factors: a first PP that begins the rising action, second PP defined by the first major reversal, a third PP defined by a possible second major reversal, a climax PP, and a theoretical PP residing in the denouement, i.e., we think the story is going to resolve a certain way after climax, but a surprise happens that resolves