Today I’m passing on words of wisdom from Kristin Nelson, agent extraordinaire and blog author of Pub Rants.
Nelson recently wrote about her “Agent Reads The Slush Pile” workshop. This workshop is a bit like a stage show, where the audience watches Nelson pretending to be in her office, while a volunteer reads (aloud) the first two pages of a manuscript submission.
In the workshops, as the volunteer reads, Nelson says “stop” at the place she would have stopped reading. Since it’s a workshop, she’ll also state why.
Now, the scary part is, that Nelson believes 99.9% of what she sees in the workshop is not ready for an agent to read. And for her most recent workshop, “only one entry made it past page 1… the majority of the others, I said stop within the first 2 paragraphs.”
The biggest culprit, according to the experienced agent, is “a lack of mastery of writing as a craft”: the entries had “classic beginning writer mistakes” that agents often saw.
Very kindly, Nelson summarised the top ten classic beginner mistakes:
1. Telling instead of showing.
2. Including unnecessary back story.
3. Loose sentence structure that could easily be tightened
4. The use of passive sentence construction.
5. Awkward introduction of character appearance.
6. Awkward descriptions/overly flowery language to depict.
7. Starting the story in the wrong place.
8. Not quite nailing voice in the opening.
9. Dialogue that didn’t quite work as hard as it should.
10. A lack of scene tension even if the opening was supposed to be dramatic.
Phew. Anyone else feeling tense right now?
You can find the original post here.