Saturday, March 22, 2008

You're killing yourself here

Three times TODAY I've gotten interesting queries with pages enclosed (good!). I've read the pages. I've said no. Why?

Cause those three pages are ALL wind up. It's people waking up to a phone call, driving to a destination, or god help us just telling me all about her situation.

DO NOT DO THIS.

Start with action that conveys conflict, challenge or a new situation. You can describe something if what you are describing is ACTION.

I routinely say no to these. Why? Cause I'm getting more queries than ever before and I have enough good ones that I don't have to ask for ones that need editing on the first three pages. And if you don't recognize this flaw your own self, I'm deeply afraid of what else you don't recognize.

You may have a great novel, but in your query letter I see ONLY the first three pages. Make them count.

7 comments:

Fred Limberg said...

Hey Janet,

Thanks for the slap...maybe next time, right?

Fred

Janet Reid said...

I love that line on your blog "if you're a big time agent, call me."
We were just talking about the difficulty of fish fiction this week in the office.

Just_Me said...

I promise I don't open with anyone waking up... but you still don't take sci-fi. Janet, I wish you'd reconsider, sci-fi is a fabulous genre!

Dr. Dume said...

I'd say something has to happen on page 1. Preferably in paragraph 1 and, if possible, in line 1.

I've picked up books, read the first page and thought 'This looks dull'. But then I had the whole book in my hand, so I persisted and most times it turned into a good story.

If I'd only had the first few pages of any those books I'd never have gone out and bought the rest of it. So I wouldn't expect an agent to take mine on if my first three pages caused the 'Well, this looks dull' response.

(ahem) It did. So I changed it. Time to try again.

I also have another story that started with someone waking up. Fortunately that's in first draft so nobody will ever see that particular gaffe!

Where's that red pen?

Fred Limberg said...

You really looked at my blog? I'm in a swoon now. Woo Hoo!!!

Guess I should have posted the phone number, huh?

Fish ficion isn't all that difficult. In fact, most fish stories are fiction, even the ones labeled as true stories.

Tough to get a lot of drama out of a fish story, unless you're intials are EH.

Throw the bait, wait wait wait, yank.

Maybe that's why I have so many rejections. SNEAK THIEF-chapter two- fishing! FALLING TO PIECES-chapter two-fishing!

That's it...no more fishing!

Thanks again for checking out the blog. It's probably best you didn't leave a comment, I'd keel over or something.

Fred

Ithaca said...

(I read this excellent post in Drama, the Berlin cafe which is a breakaway cafe from Prinz Eisenherz, a gay cafe that has gone downhill. Peter, given a free hand, has done the place up in faux leopardskin, purple, and gilded ladies holding lamps.)

When I was 16 I read a book by James Michener, The Fires of Spring, in which a character claimed to have read Proust when she had in fact read Prevost. I asked my mother to explain.

My mother: PROUST! Oh GOD! I can't STAND Proust! I TRIED to read Proust and it was just TOO MUCH!

I: What didn't you like?

My mother: Well, I started it, and I kept going SOMEHOW, and I got to the scene where Swann is coming to visit and he has sent the narrator's great-aunts a case of wine and they agree that they must thank him. So he comes, and they keep making veiled complimentary remarks. 'The papers these days have nothing of interest.' 'Yes, but SOMETIMES someone writes something EXTREMELY interesting.' (Veiled allusion to the fact that Swann had recently published a piece in the paper.) And so on, and so on, and he goes away, and the grandmother says she was surprised that they didn't thank him, and they said 'But we DID,' and they're surprised that nobody noticed, because it would have been gauche to come out and SAY, and I just couldn't STAND it, because it was JUST LIKE May-May.

(May-May was my mother's godmother, also mine, the second cousin twice removed of the man who would have been the 11th Lord Baltimore had the colonies done the decent thing and stayed loyal to George III.)

I'm thinking: WOW! This sounds GREAT! This sounds GREAT!

I do like Proust (but then I did end up in the kind of cafe that courts a non-gay clientele by doing it up in faux leopardskin). He did not start off with the slow sort of opening in which a character wakes up. Erm. He starts with the character going to bed. Early.

Jamie Hall said...

Happy bunny day!