I have people ask me to “read their stuff” all the time. And I get asked to “please pass it along to your agent” just as often. That’s cool, though. Writers very often “break in” through the contacts of other writers and for sure, I am the kind of person who likes to help others. And encourage others. And inspire others.
Yet, this is all-too-frequently a version of the letter I have to send after after agreeing to read another author’s work. (NOTE: I only agree after a few ground rules have been set on the table. Of course, the other side of the table really has no choice in the matter; if they don’t agree, I don’t read, but still… I can’t just read EVERYBODY’s first half of their forthcoming 900 page novel… as written in Sanskrit with a post-classical structure superimposed over a a neo-Joycian attempt at no using punctuation.)
Hi Smith, (I am making this up)
I finally got to Smith’s Story. Sorry for the delay but the way things have been for me as of late, getting back to you in under 3 weeks is actually pretty speedy.
I am going to go unfiltered here – gonna shoot straight. There are a few reasons for this.
First, I admire anyone who gives writing a go. And by all means, Smith, you show you have some chops and I encourage you to continue writing. One gets better as a writer by writing. Also, I really don’t know squat. My opinion is just an opinion. This could be the next Harper Lee novel you have sent to me and I might not recognize it so “grain of salt” is the rule of the day from here on in.
In my opinion, there are strengths but there are also problems. (At this juncture I will go into whatever I feel the issues are which are impeding me from passing on this book to my agent. As you will see below, 97% of the books I read do not get passed on.)
Might I suggest you, Smith, watch this piece of You Tube advice… it comes from Vonnegut. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyQ1wEBx1V0
There are not many rules that KV offers – it’s only 90 seconds – but Smith, you have violated a few of them right out of the gate and I think it puts the reader off.
Why should I care? What has made me care? Where am I vested in this story? All of these got me to a point where I realized I have other things I need to do tonight. As a writer, by page 15 I gotta be like, “My GOD… I have 30 other things I need to do tonight but there isn’t one of them that is more important than finding out THIS! I am gonna read til midnight!” That emotional feeling in me is absent. And without it, Smith, you are doomed. James Patterson I trust. Smith… not so much. (And btw, James Patterson never does this to a reader anyway. Pick up any book he writes… by page 15 there’s a deep hook. As there is with many, many authors. Amy Tan, John Grisham, Wally Lamb, Dean Koontz… I could go on and on.)
In short, I don’t want to be mean or cutting but professionals who blow smoke up a new writer’s butt do them a disservice in my opinion. This needs work. Smith, you need to better evolve your craft and while it certainly is possible that I might be blasting the next Pulitzer winner (cuz really, what the heck do I know anyway?) I don’t feel it’s ready to be submitted to an agent. I mean people ask me all the time to submit stuff to my agent for them and 97% of the time I have to pass cause the goods simply aren’t – in my opinion – ready.
Now, how will Smith respond to this? Well, that’s the question which will determine if he/she makes it as a writer. I spent years and years and years being rejected and after my initial hurt and anger and frustration I realized that hey, ya know what… maybe there is something to be learned from this sort of feedback.
Maybe I am not yet ready for the big time? And what did I eventually do? I kept learning my craft and getting better at my craft until I broke down the door to the being published.
I gave Smith’s piece a shot – and I spent a long time writing this reply to Smith – but the cold truth is that I just wasn’t feeling it and so, my “to do list” awaits.
Too bad… cause all of us readers are always hoping that the next book we read is a book that keeps us up until midnight.
Darn you writer… and now back to my “to do list”.