How to Hook an Agent on your Work and the Wildergibra

By Anthony S. Policastro

No matter how much information you find on a particular agent, they seem to be a mysterious bunch, especially when you think your novel idea is a perfect match for one of them and they send you a rejection letter.

Well, the mystery is no more after you read Therese Walsh's blog on Writer Unboxed, "Agents and the First Two Pages" about the Wildergibra of the publishing business.

She recently attended and Backspace Agent/Author Conference last week in New York City and she was gracious enough to share the gems from the conference in her blog. She writes about the first two pages of your manuscript and what it should and should not contain.

Here are some of the valuable tips she got out of the conference:
  1. Make your prose unique
  2. Polish your voice
  3. Make us care about your characters
  4. Don't jar the reader with overlong or complex sentence structures, strange word choices, inappropriate language
  5. Nix the backstory
  6. Reconsider your prologue - they tend to slow the pace down
  7. Be careful with your poetic writing
  8. Minimize description
  9. Do you homework on the agent(s)

I highly recommend taking a look at the piece. I found it enlightening in debunking some of the mystery surrounding agents. After all, they are people, too just looking for the next Holy Grail for the publishing industry.

Photo by Josi Silva at Flickr


Can We Learn From Screenwriters? The Extreme Value of The Log

By Michael Neff

Believe it or not, most fiction writers (as opposed to screenwriters) don't know the definition of a log line, much less how to craft it. But the value of this knowledge can not only make a query letter MUCH more punchy and direct, but also give the writer a means to reality-check the "high concept" of their novel-in-progress. And what do we mean by high concept? Basically, a story line or premise that sounds sufficiently unique and commercially viable at the same time--in other words, not like one the agent or editor has already heard 5000 times in the past month!

Back to logs ... The best article on the subject of writing loglines can be found at Screenwriting On The Net. From the article:

All well-written stories consist of two stories--the "objective storyline" and "subjective storyline"--[which] consists of the following: A hero with a flaw that keeps her from achieving a worthwhile goal, is forced to respond to a lifechanging event instigated by an opponent, and in the process of responding to that lifechanging event and with the help of an ally, the hero is forced to overcome her flaw, and only then is she ready to do one-on-one battle with the opponent to realize her goal.

So what do we have here? Classic DRAMA. Just keep in mind that great drama creates great characters by default. Just ask Antigone. Here is a good example from the article:

An overprotective (flaw) mother (hero) must overcome her own fears in order to allow her diabetic daughter (opponent and ally) to risk death to give birth (lifechanging event), then must fight to make sense of her daughter's losing battle against death (battle).

The above is a logline from one of America's best screenplays, "Steel Magnolias."

So you can readily see the value of perfecting this instrument for use in a query letter--to the point and punchy. It demonstrates your professionalism and by default creates a HOOK the agent can then use to snag an editor ... Yes, yes, yes.

By the way, if you absolutely cannot write a sharp log, then it's time to reevaluate your story and plot. Maybe the commercial fiction premise you've been working towards is simply non-existent?

Be honest with yourself.