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Posts Tagged ‘Author Idol’

group discussion2This week heralded the 51st Anniversary of the Cape Cod Writers Center Conference. Previously hosted in the quaint village of Craigville, last year the conference organizers found it necessary to move to the larger and more attendee-friendly Resort and  Conference Center of Hyannis, Massachusetts. With the growing number of attendees, the need for additional parking and WiFi access became crucial.

The classes offered were top-notch, with instructors from around the country. One of my classes was titled, “Five Pillars of Promotion”, and detailed the actions necessary ahead of publication, along with a timeline to insure that a newly printed book is well received.

Another class was called, “Pitches, Queries, and Proposals”. This workshop was taught by a husband-wife team who entertained us with their friendly disagreements.

My third and final session was named, “Conference Idol”, and was perhaps the most valuable hour I spent this past week. Three agents sat at the front of the room. Each attendee submitted their first page, identified only by title and genre. As the page was read, each agent lifted her hand when she heard something that would cause her to stop reading. When two hands went up, the reader halted her recitation, and the agents explained why they would go no further if this story was submitted to them for consideration. Whether they were commenting on my first page or someone else’s, the insight garnered from the perspective of the agents was invaluable.

As a bonus, one of those agents offered to sit down with me and review my first page word by word. I readily accepted, and she suggested several improvements, among them moving a strong sentence halfway down the page to be the first sentence. What a difference that made! I must have rewritten that first page more than twenty… or more!…times, but I now think it’s finally beginning in the most provocative part of the story.

I’m looking forward to my next conference, held in November, called “CrimeBake’, sponsored by the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. This conference is devoted to mysteries, and will no doubt be as equally valuable.

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sketch of question personOK… so I’ve been wrestling with my opening chapter for what seems like forever. I’ve read many writing craft books. One craft book says the author can’t mess with normal until your reader knows what normal is.

And so I’ve arrived at a quandary… how do I hook my reader [and my first reader is an agent] with the inciting incident and show my main character’s normal life at the same time?

A while ago, I attended an event at a local library called Author Idol, where the 25 authors sitting in the audience had each submitted their anonymous first three pages. The four agents up on stage raised one hand when the reader came to a place where the agent would reject the manuscript. Two agents’ hands in the air signaled the reader to stop. Would it surprise you to hear that most of us didn’t get past the first two paragraphs???

How scary is that???

How perfect does that opening have to be???

What happened to editors???

If an agent is not willing to read at least the first three pages, what hope do I have of ever getting published?

So it’s back to the drawing board. On Saturday, I’ll submit to my writing group yet another attempt at my opening. My fingers are crossed that I’m at least getting closer.

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One of the organizations I belong to… “Sisters in Crime”, is co-hostessing an event with “Mystery Writers of America” this coming Wednesday called “Author Idol”  The three agents on the panel will provide feedback on what makes them stop reading a manuscript submitted for consideration. Here’s how it’s going to work:

…each author who wants to participate will place the first three pages of their novel in a box

…a ‘reader’ will randomly select one of the stories, and begin reading

…when any of the three agents hears something that would make them put the manuscript aside, they will ring their bell. The reader continues the story.

…a bell ringing from a second agent halts the reading

…the agents will then share with the audience the why behind their decision to place the manuscript in the rejection pile.

This exercise is going to prove very useful to every author in the audience, whether they submitted three pages for the event or not. It should certainly help all of us hone those opening pages to hook an agent or publisher into reading further.

I’m really looking forward to attending!

 

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