Here’s something none of us want to do: make a “rookie mistake.” That’s how a top athlete recently described a meltdown he had: He forgot to load up on carbs prior to a tough day and ran out of gas. This isn’t the kind of mishap a seasoned pro should experience.
The same goes for us as writers: making rookie mistakes pegs us as amateurs, when we want to be viewed as pros. I just came across an article featuring a panel of agents. At one point, the interviewer asked this question, “Tell me some common problems that you see in the work of beginning writers.” Here are some of the mistakes they pinpointed based on their personal experience:
Lack of narrative momentum: You can have great characters,great dialogue,and great ideas, but if your plot wanders aimlessly, it’s not going to find an audience. As one agent said, ‘…if there’s no real story anchoring it, who really cares, at the end of the day?” Your story has to be propulsive; it has to have narrative energy and carry readers forward.
Fuzzy openings: Getting the opening right really matters. Some books don’t really start until page five or even page fifty. Agents and editors aren’t going to be all that patient about a murky beginning because they know that many readers won’t stay on board all that long. Worth remembering here: Some readers and agents are fans of action openings and others love a slow, world-building start. But whatever approach you choose to tell you story, craft it with care and polish it until it shines.
Focusing on publishing, instead of polishing: Most of the agents on the panel agreed that many writers don’t put enough time into polishing their books before they jump into the submission process. Revise your book, then put it away, then revise it yet again — that’s what one seasoned agent counseled.
Be professional: Once you land an agent and an editor, always remember that they are extremely busy and that their time is valuable. Don’t waste it by bombarding them with emails. Another tip: watch what you blog about. Anything you put out on the Internet has a long life and enormous exposure. Agents and editors who are thinking of representing you will check out your online presence.
Valuable advice from seasoned pros: Let’s use it to sharpen our stories — and write on!