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Showing posts from May, 2011

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

By Chris Stewart


This may seem beyond obvious, but a piece of writing, whatever it is, has a value system, the level to which the piece holds. The high value parts are the focus, they are what drives the story and why readers read it, the lower value parts get less page time; they are there to support the high value parts.

Another way to look at 'high value' parts is to think of them in terms of them being the spark that will get an editor's and reader's attention. That moment, when reading the book jacket, where your heart beats faster and you know you have to read it.

Unfortunately, all too often, I read work, both from clients and published writers, that focuses too much on the low value and skirts the high.

Why does this happen? Surely it's an easy black hole to avoid? It happens because writers write around the parts they are afraid or nervous to take on, or know they are not skilled enough to take on. Or perhaps are too lazy to take on. So they pay lip service to…

Does the Pitch Tail Wag The Novel Dog?

By Michael Neff

Recently, in a post by Algonkian veteran Liz Brody on her blog, the subject of query letters and pitches came up yet again. What she seems to grasp is that you can't have a good pitch or query without a good novel to back it up. Does that go without saying?  It should.  But if so, why do thousands of writers send out dull or bad queries, and pitch agents or editors with novels that don't stand a chance?

If you follow a model for a good pitch, i.e., a 150-200 word punchy synopsis-like summary that produces the first major plot point but doesn't give away the climax, and you're sufficiently self-critical, you should finally come to an understanding of the worth of your project. Keep in mind that by forcing your story into that specific model, by forcing yourself to "fill in the blanks" so to speak, you're inevitably led to understand the major strengths and weaknesses in the novel itself.

For example, if the body of the pitch, once heard or r…