A tough part about being a writer is knowing if your manuscript is on its right path. In other words, is your work strong enough to outshine the millions of other manuscripts vying to compete in the big publishing arena?
This weekend, I attended a fabulous SCBWI conference in San Antonio and had the pleasure of hearing what Folio Literary Agent, Molly Jaffa, had to say about initially impressing an agent. In a nutshell, it boils down to the first ten pages. Sometimes, even the first sentence.
Later in the afternoon, I was expected to meet with Molly for a 15-minute critique session on–you guessed it–my first ten pages!! As you can imagine, I was a little stoked (and nervous!). So, I did a checklist of the following bits Molly said she enjoys and does not enjoy when reading our first ten pages:
1. Establish the stakes. What does the protagonist stand to lose or gain?
2. NO PROLOGUES!!!
3. Create narrative tension in the novel’s beginning to where the reader cannot put novel down.
1. Make sure voice is not too generic. Specificity in voice makes reader relate more than a bland voice.
2. Extra level of detail makes a BIG impact!
3. Avoid too much slang, jargon, and throwback and classic voices.
1. Do not have characters constantly address each other by name.
2. Tags should almost always be “said.”
3. Avoid meaningless conversations.
4. Do not recap what another character already knows.
5. Do not info dump.
6. Avoid starting story with a dream sequence. You can do better!
7. Avoid having too many characters, especially in YA.
In the end, the critique session with Molly was better than I could have hoped for. Of course, the rest of the novel must also impress. So perhaps I should stop blogging and start writing? After all, my YA novel is not going to complete itself. 🙂