chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Beth Phelan of The Bent Agency February 28, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 5:52 am
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FFF SideWords

 

 

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Beth Phelan’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Beth: It’s absolutely important. Sometimes, it can be the deciding factor between a request and a pass. For me, it sets the tone for the rest of the sample pages, and ultimately, the whole book. If you can intrigue me with your first sentence, I’ll eat up the rest. If you disappoint me, I’ll still read the sample but maybe not with the same enthusiasm. But there should also be something redeeming that keeps me reading beyond that first sentence.

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Beth: Those are all great examples. My eyes also tend to glaze over when the author opens with scene setting (dumping in details about the weather or the surroundings). I would also discourage openings where a character wakes up in the morning. Waiting too long to introduce me to the protagonist is also a quick way to turn me off.

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Beth: If I read the entire sample and was sad that I’d have to wait for the author to send more, that’s a great sign. I like to forget that I’m reading something unpublished – I want to get totally lost in the story.

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Beth: I don’t like when the first five pages are full of backstory. It starts to feel like a history lesson and it takes me away from what’s actually happening. Then I panic when I finally meet the characters, trying to remember everything I’d just learned. Similarly, trying to fit too much information in those first five pages will always backfire. Set the mood and the voice first, just giving us what we need. I would also encourage authors to really work those first pages over and make sure they’re not making any stylistic errors. This is our first look at your work, and if the first few pages are riddled with common mistakes, I’ll expect the rest is. Spend a lot of time with it.

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Beth: All of that combined. I want it to be all of that. Mostly, I want to hear a clear voice coming through those first pages. It’s often the most difficult thing to get right, and while we can work on the concept and the pacing, an engaging voice is much more difficult to generate.

 

 

Beth Phelan joined the Bent Agency in September 2013 after holding positions at the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency and Waxman Leavell Literary. She is actively building her client list and is looking for complex fiction that pulls you in immediately, characters that you wish were your real friends and plot lines that drag you away from reality to a world you never want to leave. Her favorite stories are told with humor and sprinkled with surprises.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Beth, please make sure to check the Bent Agency website for their guidelines.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Laura Tims February 26, 2014

WOW

 

 

One of the things I love about today’s interview with Laura Tims is her admission that all manuscripts need work and guidance. Many times people think that once an agent picks up their manuscript they are DONE. But many times, this is not the case. An agent has amazing insight into the publishing world and can guide the work so that it’s as close to perfect as possible. I adore the fact that Laura went with her agent, not because it was going to be easy, but because she was going to make her manuscript better!

 

Many thanks to Laura for sharing her journey today…

 

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

Laura: When I was fourteen and realized I couldn’t make a living off fanfiction.

 
Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?

 

Laura: I finished my first book when I was nineteen, a couple years ago. I’d been working on it forever, but almost as soon as it was done, I knew it was kind of an unfixable hot mess. Dropping it without wasting time on revisions was, I think, probably the best decision I made when I was nineteen.

 
Amy: I love the thriller/mystery aspect behind your debut novel, PLEASE DON’T TELL. Where did the story idea come from?

 

Laura: I wish I could say I had a cool source of inspiration for it! Mostly I’d just decided I wanted to write a book set in the contemporary world, so I spent a day brainstorming in a Starbucks and that’s what I came up with.

 
Amy: Getting feedback on your manuscript prior to querying is a must, but the process can also be somewhat frightening. What made you decide to share your work as part of the First Five Pages workshop?

 

Laura: I’d heard over and over how the first few pages really have to be attention-grabbing, and I wanted to make sure they were solid. That workshop is so brilliant because it deals with a manageable but crucial part of the book – only five pages, but they gotta be perfect.

 
Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

Laura: My querying experience was surprisingly merciless and quick, maybe because I queried in November when everyone else was doing NaNo. But I definitely developed an automatic nervous twitch in response to my phone’s email alert.

 
Amy: How many agents did you query for PLEASE DON’T TELL?

 

Laura: 72.

 
Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?

 

Laura: I think I lucked out with fast response times, again possibly because it was November. A lot of it really is just luck – you never know when some agents will happen to be bombed with work.

 
Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Sarah Davies?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

Laura: I chose her in part because she said she’d want major revisions. The other agents I spoke with on the phone said they didn’t think PLEASE DON’T TELL would need much work, but I’m annoyingly unconfident when it comes to my writing and I felt safer with someone who could tear it to shreds if it needed to be torn to shreds. She also phoned me more than once over the holidays – she knew I had other offers of rep and she’d call to see how things were going. A few days before Christmas, she called while simultaneously trying to fix an oven so that she and her family in London could cook a holiday dinner. That’s how I knew she could handle anything.

 
Amy: As many writers know, the publishing world is very hard to break into. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Laura: I didn’t do anything except send out queries, haha. They weren’t even personalized. When it comes down to it, there’s really only one thing that will prompt an agent to make requests or sign with you, and that’s a strong query and book. I think it’s good to focus on that more than anything else!

 

 

Amy: If you were giving a keynote speech at a writer’s conference, what would be the most important piece of advice you would share?

 

Laura: You wouldn’t be able to hear me because I’d be stammering from stage fright! But since I’m not onstage now, I can say it. I’m sure more experienced writers have better advice, but I’ve learned that it’s really important to A. Understand that your first book won’t be your best book and it’s okay to move on if it doesn’t work out, and B. Experiment when you’re a beginner. Two years ago, I’d never have dreamed of writing contemporary books, but now I love writing them. I definitely wouldn’t have a book deal if I hadn’t explored writing past my genre boundaries.

 

 

LauraTimsLaura Tims is a college student (one more semester!) who doesn’t like coffee but who will gladly drink all of your tea. Her young adult book, PLEASE DON’T TELL, will be coming out in the fall of 2015 from HarperCollins. In the meantime, you may find her biting her nails, playing with her hair, or engaging in other nervous habits. She’s repped by Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse Literary Agency and blogs here: http://literatureandlaura.wordpress.com/. You can also follow her on Twitter @laura_tims.

 

Monday Musings: Authors – I Got Your Back February 24, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing — chasingthecrazies @ 7:55 am
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It takes a lot of effort to be cruel.  To rev-up that anger inside and then spew it out all over the internet. Boy, I’m exhausted reading it all, aren’t you?

 

If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, I’ll only allude to the fact that in the last several weeks two writers have taken to the internet to say some pretty unkind things to their fellow authors. I’m not giving links or mentioning names. As a former PR manager, I know these people think any publicity is good publicity, and I’m not going to be a cog in that wheel.

 

Here’s my point:  STOP with the madness. Let’s support our fellow authors. Their success does not in any way take away anyone else’s glory. In my opinion, we should be creating a positive community where we all join together and buoy each other’s successes. Shout each other’s amazing sales and awards from the rooftops. By doing this, we create a community where authors feel welcome and supported.

 

It’s hard to be a creative type. We spend lots of time alone – outlining, plotting, writing, revising. On top of that, it’s takes a massive amount of courage to then share that art with the world. Why as a fellow author would you add to that anxiety by being unkind? I simply don’t get it.

 

I’m just one small author, and I’m not sure I can make a difference, but today I’m taking a stand to support my fellow writers. I hope you will join me in a year-long effort to stay positive. All my tweets, blog comments, interviews, and guest posts will have an encouraging bent. I will take every chance I have to lift up those who are down from rejection and promote those who have a cover reveal, book birthday or hopefully, hit the NYT Bestsellers list.

 

It’s almost cliché now to remind people what a small community publishing is – but it’s true. There are always going to be those who want to belittle someone else’s work, but I hope those people stay in the minority. If we as authors make an effort to drown out the negativity with our praise, I believe the writing community will become an even stronger place.

 

To start my year-long effort, I want to share the link for the cover reveal for Heidi Schulz’s forthcoming middle grade book, Hook’s Revenge. Just looking at it makes my heart happy!

 

http://www.themidnightgarden.net/2014/02/hooksrevengereveal.html

 

Query 101 – The Basics: Where Do I Begin? February 21, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,Publishing,Query — chasingthecrazies @ 7:49 am
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Preface:

 

The Query 101 series begins today at a very basic level. As it progresses, I will get into more detail in regards to query structure, research, nudging etc. For now, I want to help those who need to start at the very first step on the path to publishing: learning about the query.

 

 

Congratulations! You’ve finished that amazing manuscript and you’re ready to send it to an agent.  What do you do next? Print it out, attach a handwritten note, and send via snail mail?

 

No.

 

Do you find several agents via the internet, type a quick note, and then attach the manuscript file before sending?

 

No.

 

There are several steps you need to go through before you send your manuscript to an agent. Let’s start at the very beginning with the query.

 

 

1) What is a query?

 

A query is a basic business letter you send to a literary agent or publisher. It describes your project, why you think it would be a good fit for them, and your writing qualifications if you have any.

 

Sounds simple, right? Well for some writers it can be. But for most, it takes hours/days/weeks to craft the perfect letter that describes your project with enough detail and voice that an agent will request more.

 

 

2) What does a query look like?

 

There are a couple of examples of great queries on the internet. My recommendation would be to check out the Successful Queries series from Writer’s Digest. The series shares a successful query and follows-up with commentary from the writer’s literary agent as to why it caught their eye. Another great link from Writer’s Digest is this article on “How to Write The Perfect Query Letter,” with commentary from former literary agent, Mary Kole.

 

 

3) Write the query

 

Now that you’ve seen good examples of queries, it’s time to write your own. Think about examples you read. What made them stand out? Did you immediately get a sense of the MC’s voice? Did you know the stakes right away? These are things to keep in mind when crafting your query.

 

One word of note: Queries should be written in third person, present tense. ALWAYS. Many people have tried to be crafty and write it from the POV of their character. Or they begin with a rhetorical question. Many, many agents I’ve talked to, and interviewed, request that writers stay away from this approach.

 

 

4) Get feedback on the query

 

This may be the most important step in your query process. While you think that first draft completely rocks, you need another set of eyes on that bad boy to be sure.

 

If you don’t have regular critique partners, I highly suggest going to one of these writing community websites and sharing your query. Feedback will help you discover if you are conveying your story clearly, and if it is enough to hook an agent.

 

QueryTracker – Query Forum

 

AgentQuery Connect

 

Absolute Write – Query Hell

 

 

Penning the tightest and most compelling query is hard work. You need to go through the process methodically, and obtain feedback whenever you can. Remember, the query is your first introduction to a literary agent. You’ve got one shot to impress them. Once that agent sends you a rejection, you have to cross them off your list and move on. It’s a daunting and terrifying thought, but if you put in the hard work, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results!

 

Next time on Query 101: The Query Structure (Greeting, Category/Genre, Word Count, Body Copy & Bio)

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Melissa Grey February 19, 2014

WOW

 

 

The query. It is the one question I always ask about in my interviews. Why? Because in my opinion, after writing a great book, the query is the single most important thing you can do to get your foot in the publishing door.

 

Today, author, Melissa Grey, shares her writing odyssey, and one of the things that stood out in her interview was her comment about research before querying. I think many times writers throw their query out there without doing any research about which agent may be a good match for not only their book but them. But as Melissa’s success proves, if you do the legwork, you CAN connect with an amazing agent.

 

Many thanks to Melissa for sharing her writing journey…

 

 

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

 

Melissa: Publishing a novel has been a goal of mine since I was fourteen. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, so I spent years working on my writing, first through fan fiction (Harry Potter was my fandom of choice) and then through original short stories. It’s a craft, like any other, and it takes a lot of practice before you’re any good, so I took my time. I wrote my first book in 2009. It was a NaNoWriMo project, and honestly, it wasn’t great, but it was proof that I could produce something with a word count greater than 50,000.

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first Young Adult manuscript?

 

Melissa: Funnily enough, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT is the first manuscript I consider truly completed. I wrote drafts of two books — one in 2009, another in 2012 — that had beginnings, middles, and ends, but I knew they weren’t publication worthy. They were like the first pancake (or two), and they never got past the first draft stage. With THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, I knew I had something that would make a compelling story that could also find a place in the market. I believed in it more than anything else I’d ever done, so I knew it was The One.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners or beta readers that helped you polish THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT?  If so, how critical were they to the process of completing the manuscript?

 

Melissa: I don’t know how you’d write a book without several pairs of eyes helping you. I had two CPs who were in the trenches with me, working through plot points and character development. Then, since they knew all the twists and turns in the story, I had two beta readers who knew nothing about the book going into it. That was how I judged if my jokes were funny and if my plot twists were twisty. THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT would not be the book it is without their feedback. The thing about writing stories is that you can’t read your own, so it’s impossible to be objective about it.

 

 

Amy: How laborious/frustrating was the query process for you?

 

Melissa: I had seven drafts of the manuscript before I felt it was worthy of being seen by agents and thirteen drafts of the query letter. I agonized over that letter to the point of losing sleep over it. Thankfully, I got my first offer of representation a month after sending out my first letter, so it wasn’t a long drawn out process. Getting rejections is never easy, but I’m good at compartmentalizing. I filed the rejections away (mentally and physically) and focused on feeling good about the requests.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT?

 

Melissa: About thirty. I sent them out in batches of ten over three weeks.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for the requests/rejections?

 

Melissa: The responses I got were all pretty speedy. The first rejection rolled in within hours and the first request from the query letter came in a week later. Three weeks after that, I got my first offer, so I informed the people who had requested material and those I’d queried within the past month (which, as it turns out, was all of them). Many passed when I gave them a one week deadline with the full manuscript, but five more offered representation. The whole shebang took about a month, so I’m very fortunate in that regard. I’ve been called many things, but patient has never been one of them.

 
Amy: As many writers know the publishing world is very hard to break into.  What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Melissa: Research. I was very selective with who I queried. I made sure the people on my list were actively looking for both Young Adult fiction and fantasy, so I didn’t waste my time or theirs. My book is the first in a trilogy so I knew it might be a hard sell with all the trilogies crowding the market, so I had to be smart about things. I made sure the query letter was as strong as it could be before letting it out into the world — pitch contests were really helpful with that because they provide feedback from people who are unfamiliar with your story. If the pitch doesn’t inspire your audience to want to read more, it needs serious revising, which mine totally did.

 

 

Amy: What was your call like with your agent, Catherine Drayton?  How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

Melissa: Catherine is a lovely person, but — through no fault of her own — I was so intimidated by her! She’d been on my list of “dream agents,” which basically consisted of people with amazing track records that I was so sure would never want to give me the time of day, so when she offered, I was flabbergasted. She was so enthusiastic, but also incredibly focused on her plan for the book. During our first conversation, I realized she was the kind of person I needed in my corner. She’d help me kill my darlings when I had to, and fight tooth and nail to see my book succeed. I wanted someone who would push me when I really needed it, and who was interested in not just selling a book but in building a career. It was immediately apparent that Catherine was that person.

 

 

Amy: What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their publishing dream?

 

Melissa: Don’t give up. Now, I don’t mean that you should put all your eggs in one basket or continue to query a manuscript that simply isn’t working, but rather, keep writing. Sometimes, you’ll write something and it won’t be great. And that’s okay. That’s necessary. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince, and that saying holds true when it comes to your work. You will produce duds. You will write unmitigated crap. Sometimes, your jokes will fall flat, and your characters will be one-dimensional, and you plot twists will be more like straight lines. But if you write through it and maintain perspective, eventually, you’ll find your way.

 

 

Melissa-GreyMelissa Grey penned her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. As an undergrad at Yale, she learned how to ride a horse and shoot a bow and arrow at the same time, but hasn’t had much use for that skill since graduating in 2008. She is represented by Catherine Drayton of InkWell Manangement, and her debut novel, THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, will be published by Delacorte Press/Random House in spring 2015. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow her on Twitter @meligrey.

 

New Adult State of Mind – A Guest Post By Chanel Cleeton February 17, 2014

Filed under: Blog,New Adult,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:04 am
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New Adult is a writing category that is slowing building momentum in the publishing marketplace. With the success of Cora Carmack’s, LOSING IT series, and other writers like Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, starting to pen books with New Adult themes, agents and publishers are starting to take notice of what these stories can offer to a reading audience that is constantly hungering for new ideas.

 

Today, I’ve asked author, Chanel Cleeton, to share her thoughts on this evolving category, and what it means to actually write New Adult.

 

 

 

Getting to a New Adult State of Mind

By Chanel Cleeton

I see london

 

 

Writing New Adult is all about capturing the spirit of being eighteen to twenty-six years old. This time in your life is a huge transitional period—you’re facing new adventures like finding your way in the world, starting a career, falling in love, and leaving home. New Adult is also about juggling the responsibilities of adulthood without having the experience or complete confidence you may need to face the challenges thrown your way. As a writer you want to convey this spirit to your readers—creating relatable characters and situations. I find that personal experience is one of the best tools you can utilize when writing New Adult.

 

For me, at twenty-eight, my New Adult years are a very recent memory. I draw a lot on personal experiences and my friends’ experiences. I find that this brings authenticity to my characters. For example, in one of the scenes in I SEE LONDON, my heroine talks about changing the assigned ringtone for a certain guy in her cell phone so she’ll know when he calls. It’s a little thing but something I totally did when I was single. I’ve had readers comment on it because they’ve done the same. Putting realistic details and emotions in your book goes a long way to connecting with your readers and making your characters authentic.

 

If you’re interested in writing New Adult, real life is a great source of inspiration. Even if your New Adult years were a while ago, still think back and remember how you felt during those years. Think about the challenges you faced, adventures you had, and changes you went through. Think of pieces of your past and experiences that you can put into your characters. If you’re around teens or twentysomethings, they are also a wonderful resource.

 

Another step to adopting a New Adult mindset is to read widely within the category. Books like Easy by Tammara Webber, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Losing It by Cora Carmack, and Wait for You by Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, are all staples. Reading these books will give you a sense of the category’s origins. That said—New Adult isn’t just about contemporary romance. The category is developing and evolving over time and the New Adult spirit is prevalent whether you’re writing dystopian or contemporary.

 

Popular culture can also be an excellent inspiration for writing New Adult. Shows like Girls, Felicity, Vanderpump Rules, Ugly Betty, later seasons of Gossip Girl, Veronica Mars, and One Tree Hill, are all representative of the New Adult spirit. Movies like 21, Pitch Perfect, Legally Blonde, and The Social Network also depict the challenges and adventures of life as a twentysomething. Magazines like Cosmopolitan and Glamour are also great resources—especially the sections that include reader input.

 

Honestly, writing New Adult can be challenging and a little scary. As a writer, it can push you outside of your comfort zone. The current market is pretty sexy. That doesn’t mean you have to write steamy New Adult stories—I firmly believe that there is room for all heat levels. If you want to—great. If you’re uncomfortable—find what works for you. I wrote Young Adult before switching to New Adult and it was a challenge for me to feel comfortable writing sexy scenes that weren’t the fade-to-black that we so often see in younger stories. But in my case, an increased heat level fit my characters, and I went for it because it was the best thing for the story. That said, it’s still not as hot as some New Adult books and that’s okay.

 

There are many ways to capture the New Adult voice and it all goes back to the need for diversity within the category. There’s room to write different types of characters with different backgrounds and experiences. There’s room for hot stories and sweet stories, room for contemporary and other genres. New Adult is rich in possibilities and you have to find the story you want to tell. Don’t be afraid to write New Adult because you don’t think you fit the current market. Make your own path.

 

Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to finding your New Adult voice. While the New Adult spirit is about change and transition, there is a lot of room for diversity within the category. We need diversity to grow and appeal to readers across a broader spectrum. If you’re interested in writing New Adult, I highly recommend reading some of the books that define the category and immersing yourself in the lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you can’t write something totally different, but it’s important to understand the foundation. At the end of the day, the key to writing New Adult is creating a story and characters that will resonate with readers. I hope you fall in love with New Adult as much as I have!

 

 

ChanelChanel Cleeton’s New Adult debut, I SEE LONDON, will be released by Harlequin (HQN) on February 3, 2014, followed by a sequel, LONDON FALLING, later in the year. An avid reader and hopeless romantic, Chanel is happiest curled up with a book. She has a weakness for handbags, puppy cuddles, and her fighter pilot husband. Chanel loves to travel and is currently living an adventure in South Korea. For more on Chanel, check out her website, follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Lara Perkins of The Andrea Brown Literary Agency February 14, 2014

Filed under: Blog,Literary Agent,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 9:38 am
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FFF SideWords

 

 

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript.  You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Lara Perkins’ perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Lara: For me, the first line is very important. Like any reader, I want to be drawn in to a new story and a great first line does exactly that. A strong first line suggests a writer is in control of language and in control of his or her story. If the first line is great, then I’m also probably seeing the manuscript after it’s been revised and polished, which tells me the writer is serious about craft and has a professional approach. That doesn’t mean the first line can’t be improved further or even rethought (or sometimes even lifted from later in the ms), but I think it’s a missed opportunity if your first line doesn’t have some punch, some tension, and some suspense.

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Lara: I think it’s less about avoiding common openings and more about finding a beginning that’s truly unique to your story. The problem with these common openings is that they’re usually placeholders. The writer isn’t sure where to begin, so he or she begins somewhere familiar…but it’s not really the beginning of the specific story he or she is telling. My advice to writers would be that if your story can only logically and thematically begin with a dream, and the dream scene you’ve written is riveting and fresh (to other readers, not just to you!), then for my money, go ahead and begin that way. It likely won’t read like a “common opening” because it will actually be unique and integral/specific to your story. But if you don’t know where to start and you figure, well, The Hunger Games begins with Katniss waking up, so I’ll begin with my main character waking up, too, then I’d encourage you to go deeper and think more about the true, organic beginning of your story.

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Lara: It’s a combination of a character I want to know more about, writing that speaks to me, and a premise that seems big enough, interesting enough, and different enough to sustain an entire book.

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Lara: I think one common mistake is beginning with action but no context or character development, so the plot is moving forward, but the reader doesn’t have a reason to be invested in the outcome. Another common mistake is beginning in a moment of great loss for your main character, but without enough context for the reader to feel the power of that loss and share the main character’s grief. As a result, we’re at a distance from the main character immediately.  Another common mistake is a first chapter that stays entirely in the narrator’s head–with no dialogue, no action, etc. Except in rare cases, that gets claustrophobic very quickly.

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Lara: Voice, primarily, with pacing a close second. If there are already pacing problems in the first five pages, then that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the story. But if I’m not connecting with the voice, then it’s probably not the right project for me.

 

 

Lara Perkins is an Associate Agent and Digital Manager at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. She has been with the agency for three years, working closely with Senior Agent Laura Rennert, with whom she jointly represents a number of clients, in addition to building her own list. Lara has a B.A. in English and Art History from Amherst College and an M.A. in English Literature from Columbia University, where she studied Victorian Brit Lit. In her pre-publishing life, she trained to be an architect, before deciding that books, not bricks, are her true passion.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Lara, please make sure to check the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for their guidelines.

 

 
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