Monday, May 22, 2006

Keep it simpe--please!!

Lately I’ve been seeing loads of queries with great ideas that just don’t come to fruition when I request the full MS. What I’m seeing is new writers trying to write like pros that have been in this business forever. You shouldn’t do this if you have your publishing goals straight.

First of all, if this is going to be your first and only book—ever, don’t bother to query us. We would prefer not to represent one book-wonders. If, on the other hand, novel writing is your career goal, you have plenty of time to experiment. So, with that in mind, keep your first book technically simple. Choose a one narrator and stick with that person, object, alien, or whenever throughout your novel or book. To do otherwise weakens every other character in the book and makes a difficult job more difficult or even impossible before the novel’s end.

Along this same line, write with one voice. I recently requested a full submission in which the author decided to switch from third person-limited to first person. The villain’s voice was in third and the protagonist’s in first. It didn’t work as well as it could have; it just made the character foil seem washed out, and the book eventually ended up with a very bland lead character. I knew what he was trying to do, but unfortunately it didn’t work. This often happens when a writer takes bold risks early on.

When writing your first book, your goal should be to get it published so you can start building a name and an audience in whichever category or genre you choose to write. Therefore, use simple technique to write a great story. Use the extra energy that complexity requires to develop a great story with memorable characters.

Along that same line, don’t send me work whose premise has already been exploited a thousand times. The other day a writer sent me a query in which he proclaimed that he had written the new Da Vinci Code. There is only one Da Vinci Code, and there will never be another. Don’t try to emulate a bestseller because you are again wasting your effort. No one will take your work seriously because it’s already been done. Use that effort to recycle an old theme with a new twist. There are only so many plots, and every one has been used thousands of times. What’s new is the angle and the twist, so write from a new angle in a different perspective. What is the Da Vinci code but Raider’s of the Lost Ark with a different angle? Like all the experts say, most of the information in the Da Vinci Code is readily available in many other books. Dan Brown just uses that information and takes it to the next logical fictionalized step. He uses a tool available to all fiction writers and that tool is—“What if!”
Think of it this way: What if you kept it simple?


NL Gassert said...

Simplicity is underappreciated.

I had the brilliant idea to make my current book a simple, straight-forward, uncomplicated story and found it incredibly difficult. I have nothing but admiration and appreciation for authors who master the simple approach.

DanStrohschein said...

I really love this article. It's something that really hasn't been addressed, and was extremely informative to me.

Simplicity in plotlines is good as well. Plotlines that stretch out over several books are very difficult to write. I agree with the agent, simplicity is the best key.