Releasing your inner dragon

Round two of the publishing game: Who will survive the slush pile?

June 28, 2024 Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake Season 4 Episode 24
Round two of the publishing game: Who will survive the slush pile?
Releasing your inner dragon
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Releasing your inner dragon
Round two of the publishing game: Who will survive the slush pile?
Jun 28, 2024 Season 4 Episode 24
Marie Mullany & Maxwell Alexander Drake

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they read first page submissions and say if they would have published them and why they would (or would not have) published them.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Join Drake and Marie as they read first page submissions and say if they would have published them and why they would (or would not have) published them.

Writer's room (50% off for lifetime membership):

Membership for Just In Time Worlds:

Give us feedback at releasingyourinnerdragon(at)gmail(dot)com


Drake's Contact Details:
Starving Writer Studio:
Drake-U:  - Use RYID25 for 25% off!
Writer's Room:

Marie's contact details:
Just In Time Worlds:

We're talking about an agent with a stack of 200 pages in front of them and they're going through them. And so, again, agents extrapolate a lot. And if there's no emotions in the first three or four or five paragraphs, then I'm going to assume that they're just not going to have any emotions in this story that the because so many authors

do not write emotions.

They just don't.

Releasing your inner dragon.

Hello and welcome to another episode of First Page reads. So once again, as per last time, we're going to read the first pages that have been sent to us or read up to where we'd be out enough to kind of judge the story on. And we're going to act as though we are publishing agents. Obviously we are not.

But you know, we do have experience in the industry and then we'll say why we are out at this point or not out.

So so I just don’t want anyone to get mad. All we're trying to do is show people how rough it is in this industry. So we're going to be it's not when we personally are like, I hate this story. Don't take it like that. It's just if if an agent had this, when do we feel that agent would send you a rejection letter?

That's to try to show you how the industry thinks. So this is not about how Drake and Marie think. This is how Drake and Marie think the industry thinks.

Right. Okay, so I'm going to share my screen and take this puppy off the road.

And we do like doing these. So if you want to have your first page included in our next first page read, well, we read the first page and tell you where the agent might stop. Send it to . Just make sure you put on there for first page reads because we also take edits and we'll do When we get enough of these sent to us, we'll do another episode.

Yep. Okay, so here we go. Emily Mason had never known her mother. Now the person who kissed the skin needs placed. The bandages and her favorite person in the world wasn't in the world anymore. Fiona Cooper. Mason Or to everyone who knew her nanny fee had passed, the realization materialized and she sank into it. Okay, I'm going to say I'm out because the grammar is not.

I would have a second paragraph. I got what it was after I got past that. But it took me a second to even figure out if if an agent has to struggle with the grammar. Remember, this is a buyer's market. They have to spend money and time to correct grammar and all of that. So if you if you fail in the grammar side of it, then you've got to understand they're looking at this as a business.

And so that's a lot of money they have to spend to get an editor to come through and fix your poor grammar. They've got 5000 other options that they can choose from. And so, yeah, this one, I don't think either one of us are out because of the story itself. No, but the the fact that we're now trying to figure out what the author is saying, and that's and you have to understand, here's the crappy thing about this industry.

You might go, Yeah, but okay, so I messed that one paragraph up, but I'm less everywhere else. The problem is, is that I don't have time to read the whole thing. I've got to make a decision quickly. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to assume I'm going to assume that the second paragraph is very clunky and grammatically difficult to read.

The whole thing is going to be that way. It may not be, but I'm never going to stick around to find out. I'm going to send a thank you rejection letter and and move on. I've got a stack of these to do.

When you are editing, especially the portion that you know, when you do a query letter that tend to ask for like the first 20

pages or

something like that, like as part of the query letter, could you get the friend to read it, You read it aloud, you make word, read it to you, and you make certain that there are no missing words, that the grammar is as good as you can make it. You feed it through chat. GTP Do anything with it, make like.


Every line.

Be a part of a writer's group. Yeah, like purportedly.


Or writer's room and get critiqued by Drake and Marie to kind of say, Wow, that's not a very good paragraph. But you, you've.

Got to, you've got to get the, the grammar part of it and the words because I think there's a word missing here. Yeah. The the realization material as she sank into the bed already disabled, it cradled the full weight of her body dropping like, I don't know, maybe it but it feels like there are missing words here. Like but its also very esoteric in

kind of the way. It's very esoteric in the way it's written so like that second paragraph now, the person who kissed her skinned knees placed the bandages on her favorite on her favorite person in the world. Like we have all these pronouns like. So now the person who kissed her skin, knee and put bandages on her favorite person.

So wait a minute. So the person with the skinned knee is the one whose favorite person in the world.

That her is pointing at the wrong is pointing at the wrong pronoun because that her is pointing at the person who kissed her skinned knees not at the protagonist.

Right? Yeah. So the person is kissing a skinned knee and also putting bandages on the person's on the person person. So when you have this kind of stuff, it it's like they're going to pass on it. They just are. Absolutely. And that's a shame because then they don't even get into the story itself. Yeah.

So with the first page, it is so, so critical that you get it as perfect as you can.

Yeah, it is literally true when they say you only get your opening paragraph when it comes to an agent, like that's it. And then the first.

They are cold and hard and quick.


They're in a hurry.

Really. It's the first sentence. You get the first sentence which buys you the first paragraph, and then if they're still reading out the first paragraph, it'll buy you the first. Usually the page. And then if they're still reading after the first page, then they'll buy you a deeper look. But if they can't get past, if there's anything, if there's a typo in the opening line, that is reason for them to pass on it.

And they will. Yeah.

Yeah. Remember they were looking for a reason to reject your book.

Yeah. Yeah. All right.

Story two Samuel Herber traded the station's hangar fire platform. The grated metal rattled and groaned with each cautious step. He started himself looking down through the platforms. Diamond shaped holds half a dozen levels of similar walkways were strung beneath them like multilayered streets instead of automobiles. There were port workers heading to projects and crew on their way to embark instead of how in store front they were mishap and chunks of gunmetal gray spacecrafts.

Some swarmed with mechanics, while others sat dormant and empty. A vertical gantry plucked one of the ships from its lot and lowered it to a beam at the bottom of the hangar. It passed the ship off to a horizontal crane system where it swung in a queue, with other vessels awaiting its turn to be dropped in the vacuum of space.

Yup. Where are you at?

Anywhere you want in that second paragraph. Yeah. And here's the shame. Most readers aren't going to be out. Most readers would give this more.

So the problem with the second paragraph is that it is very long and without any tie back.

To the.

Protagonists. And I can actually see that right here is the tieback, right? So Samuel's wide blackness dangled by the strap around his neck and he's got this image of falling down. Now, if you rearrange that second paragraph to have Samuel experience that moment of vertigo and that thing and then commit to, you know, not look and cut like interject the character in the description.

The description needs to be personal to the character.

Yeah. The second paragraph is what's called detached telling. There's nothing, there's nothing attached. There's, there's no perspective in the second paragraph. We don't really know that Samuel is looking anything. And when I say that, I don't mean Samuel watched as this and Samuel looked at this. I'm not I'm not filtering, but it's there's no P.O.V. in the second one.

It's omniscient. Yeah. And it's just a bunch of description. And we're at the very beginning of our story. We need to hook especially agents. We need to hook them as fast as possible. Again, that's why I said it's a shame, because there's nothing in here that would probably stop a reader from reading. It's like if this is the look inside and this the cover was interesting.

And somebody had said, Hey, you might want to check this book out. I think you'll like it. I would keep reading personally if this was a look inside. If I'm an agent and I've got a stack of 200 submissions that I have to go through today before I start my day, then that second paragraph being omniscient and there's nothing, no connection to the P.O.V., I don't feel like it's got a great voice.

I don't see a conflict. I'm not connected to the story in any way. What I'm going to do as an agent is assume that many, many, many times through this story, the character or the reader is going to get detached from the story. You know, again, reader agents assume a lot from that opening. And and here's the thing.

They're right to do it because 99.9% of the time when I read somebody's opening page, that is literally how the entire book is read. You know, I used to get pissed off when I would you know, I've got tons of agents that are friends. We go out to dinner and like in the beginning, my career, when I found out, yeah, I only read the first page, first line, and then I reject it.

I'm like, How? That's wrong. You're evil. Like, that could be the next Harry Potter. And then now, 20 years down the road, I'm going, Yeah, No, that first line really tells a lot about that author's ability, that first paragraph, that first couple of paragraphs.

I just want to quickly just speak about the stop of description, because a lot of people describe like this. They describe in what I call pretty prose. It is pretty prose to read. It's got lovely descriptive words and all the rest of it. But it is completely like, as you say, detached. It is. It might as well be omniscient.

What you need to try and do is work into those descriptions. How Samuel feels about what he see.

Yeah, why?

How that ties into his like what does he want and what is he.

So like we have instead of automobiles? Okay, why is Samuel Herbert expecting to see automobiles here? It sounds like we're out in space instead of houses and storefronts. Okay. Why is he expecting to see them and why does that affect him? You know, there's a lot of opportunities in here to bring the character in, give me their emotions.

And then based on that, there's a lot of opportunities to make me go, this is interesting. Yeah, because there is this whatever it looks like he's got suicidal fantasy next. So if that's a part of this up front, that's probably going to do a better job of hooking.


Than not.

Okay. dear. my. Kaley. Sorry. My cat. My apologies.

To the.

Author who just got it.


Story number three. Theo pretended to be asleep when Dr. Harper entered her room. He was earlier than usual, but the procedure would be the same as always. The doctor ran a hand across her forehead to rouse her before he began checking her vital signs. The bell of the stethoscope was like ice against her neck, and she shivered as he counted the heartbeats.

His fingers tapped the thick, leather bound journal text tucked under his arm. He slid a tray to her bedside, dry toast, ice water and a handful of bulbs. The usual fare. Theo pulled the blankets tighter around her thin shoulders as she made herself eat. Even in summer, her room was cold. There were specks on the walls that had been painted over, divots left from thumbtacks.

The walls used to be decorate it with posters, Polaroids and some of her mother's paintings, strings of decorative fairy lights at once and circled her headboard. But all of that had been removed along time ago. He said it made it easier to sanitize. Doctor Harper sat down, one long leg, crossed over the other. I'm still going to keep reading.

Doctor Harper sat down, one long leg, crossed over the other and flipped through the journal. Even though the sun was still a golden glow at the edge of her bedroom window, he was already dressed in a collared shirt and clean white lab coat. Okay. Losing a bit of interest. Art, where were you at?

I mean, honestly, I think an agent would have been out before I raised my hand. There's no emotions. There's no connection to the character. I don't know what the character, what their motivation is, what their desires are. I don't really even know if I'm in head. I feel like I'm both in Dr. Harper's head and Theo's head, not straight up head hopping, but almost like it's an omniscient.

I'm in no head because there's no yeah.

The emotion is very subtle and it's very despair oriented. I was out at the at the paragraph where he said after Dr. Harper sat down, one leg crossed against the other and flipped through the journal. The reason why I was out there was because I hadn't. So I was interested in Theo's situation. It was it was an interesting set up for the story because we're clearly dealing with an invalid.

But I needed some reason that makes this invalid at least different enough to keep me reading. That was why I wasn't right.

There's just nothing that is connecting me to the character.

Yeah. Like right now she's in a state of deep depression, I think. At least that's what it reads like.

So, like, you know, there were specks on the wall that had been painted over divots left from thumbtacks. The wall used to be decorated with posters, Polaroids, and some of her mother's paintings like. But there's no emotional attachment to that. Like, how does that make me feel? How am I supposed to feel about this?

Yeah. What does you say? It made it easier to sanitize. What does that make the character feel? Right about? Is she angry about it? Does she just accept that? Like, there needs to be a little bit more here to.

Pull to pull.

Me through and continue with me going with the character?

Now, again, I wouldn't necessarily have stopped reading. Yeah. And here's the danger of doing something like this. Let's say I'm just going to steel man this. Let's say that Theo has no emotions is literally emotionally dead. And part of the story arc is this character growing and and learning what it's like to be human and everything like that.

That may be a really, really good story. But we're not talking about that.

We're talking about an agent with a stack of 200 pages in front of them and they're going through them. And so, again, agents extrapolate a lot. And if there's no emotions in the first three or four or five paragraphs, then I'm going to assume that they're just not going to have any emotions in this story that the because so many authors

do not write emotions.

They just don't.

One of our own, our watchers said many first page flashback. I know that to a no, no, no right. To me, it's not a flashback. It's just past perfect. It's just this isn't here anymore. Yeah.

It it doesn't read like a flashback to me either, but I. But there's not enough. There's. There's not enough character here to pull me through.

Yeah, Grammar's good.

Yeah, grammar's good. There's. There's an interesting setup here. You know, it's a different start to a story. All of those are good things. But give me more. Connect me to Theo.

What does Theo want. What does she desire? Why is she what is she feeling? How does she relate to the world around her? You know, these are all things that are going to connect me deeper into that character. And again, I'm not saying I would have stopped, especially considering, you know, I'm I'm going to be hoping that that that what I said, like maybe this is a character that has no emotions on purpose.

But that's a very dangerous thing if you're going to be trying to submit this to the industry. Yeah, because they don't have time. They don't have time to see that that unfold. They've got to make a decision quickly.

All right. Story four Civilization was the last place one would expect the legend of the wilds to begin. But it was the case for Fern. Being the child of merchant. She spent a lot of time traveling from settlement to settlement, seeing new faces and places all her life, even though she never expected, never stayed in one place for too long.

The event she would end up going through was unexpected. It started when she was playing with some village, some of the village children. They had been running around in the fields, pretending to be great heroes out slaying monsters and saving villagers as they ran. They ended up coming across the old river that bordered the pastures, and not far away rose the mighty trees of the forest.

To the girl, the conifers stood like wooden pillars, holding up the sky tall and magnificent. Most of them. I'm just going to finish the paragraph. Most of the children knew better than to go into the woods because because of the predators that lurk there, they were infamous for writing their livestock and sometimes carried off people as well. Okay, Why you out where you're at and where you at?

All right, So unfortunately, this reads a lot like your 1950, 6070s fantasy, which was super popular back then. It's very omniscient. It's very telly. I don't see it selling a lot in today's market. So again, we're looking at this from an industry standpoint. They're looking for limited P.O.V., they're looking for, you know, openings that start in media res, you know, in the action.

And this is a story that starting in that traditional, you know, that bell guarded. Yeah. You know, it's sort of Shannara Lord of the Rings kind of way where we're going to give kind of this overarching back story in the history of a world and and all this stuff. And it's just not exactly what the industry is, is looking to purchase these days because readers are more savvy.

Readers want to be in the action quicker. And so I was out because of the fact, not because of any of the writing, not because of the story, not because of any of that, but because it's too 1970s. And I just I.

Was out.


Yeah, I was out at they had been running around in the fields pretending to be great heroes out slaying monsters. Right. If just show me that show me that and give me the opportunity to connect to the character rather than tell me that that's what they had been doing. Because if you start the story with they had been doing that, I'm going to assume that that is going to be a whole lot of the rest of your book.

Well, if we continue down just a little bit so we get an in red line, get away from there. Mr.. I saw the watchmen of the field. It's called to the children, You're too far from the village, blah, blah, blah. But then we're won by one. The children are like, we're in this omniscient and omniscient just doesn't sell today it is harder.

So remember, the agent who signs you have has then got to take your story and convince somebody with money to buy it. Yeah. And so as an agent, they know that publishers, just like you, have to wine and dine and convince the crap out of them. This is the most amazing tale, and you're just got to get over it.

Yes, it's written in Omniscient. I know it's a dead P.O.V., but my goodness, this story, it's it's. It's Lord of the Rings destroying. And they're just not they don't have time for that. So again, not raising my hand because of the of the writing story, whatever I'm going to send is just not something that is easy to sell.

Yeah. And these guys are businesspeople.

They're looking for what sells easy. All right.

Story for I always think of agents like used car salesmen. They're going to go after the easiest sell that they can do now.

Story 5. What do you mean? Dennis has been chosen for family reassignment. Dad's voice echoed through our flat. The glass of water mom had brought for our guest fell from her hand and shattered on the floor. I collapsed on the couch with horror, family reassignment. It couldn't be. That was that was one of the worst things that could happen to any kid.

What did I or my parents done that the government decided to take me away from them? Mr. Wells sighed as he shook his bearded head. If it weren't for his green business shoes and tennis business suit and tennis shoes, he could have passed his father Christmas. Exactly that. My connections alerted me that your son was selected to be given a new set of parents.

We've dug into his new parents social media records, and let's just say they wouldn't have his best interests at heart. I shuddered and thought about what I had seen at school. It talked about students who had been reassigned to new parents and had their futures wholly destroyed. Some had been exposed to drugs and alcohol. Some had been forced to work in jobs that left them traumatized.

Others were forced to transition against their will, even when they made it clear with their preference that they could be made for full the wishes of those who knew better than them. As a result, many ended up taking their own lives, all because people who had the funds to pay the bribes to politicians wanted to take control of kids fates.

There was no way I was going to let that happen to me. Mr. Wells, Is there? Please call me Jules. Mr. Wells is far too stiff cleaning his glasses real quick, he continued. Yes, there is something I can do. I'm here to offer you and your parents a chance to travel somewhere the government won't be able to find you.

I couldn't help but scoff at that, where guardianship it controls most of the planet now and travel to any nation that stands against them is forbidden. They'll track us down. No, I don't believe. Yeah. All right. So I will tell you where I was Out. I was out over here. Write this paragraph. And I was out because the exposition was getting way too long, and it wasn't necessary.

It was been hit.

Look up upfront. I got it. I got it. The kids being reassigned is being taken away from his parents by the government. That's plenty good enough. You don't need to add to that. All of the other stuff like that can come later. 100% agree.

I think an agent would have been out there. I didn't raise my hand cause I actually was interested in. Wanted to see where it went. I was personally interested. Yeah. If this was somebody in the writers room, I would be editing the tar out of them. It's not the best written. It's got way too much info, dumpy stuff in it.

Like go to the first paragraph just to kind of show you a point.

There's also there's one hell of a, as you know, Bob Dylan blog.

Yeah, a lot of that. So all of this needs to be and and if I was an agent I would go, Wow, this is a really good idea, but my God, is it going to take a lot of work to fix? But like, as an example, in case the author is listening, we have this beautiful opening line that is in media res and the third line is in media res.

I collapse on the couch in horror, but we have this line in the middle. The glass of water mom had brought for our gas fell from her hand like the glass of water and mom's hand fell to the floor. You know.

You don't need to introduce the guest at this point. It's okay. We'll get to the gate. Right?

Exactly. We don't need this pass. Perfect. Had brought all this other stuff because now we're we're not in media rez anymore. And so, like, I'm the moment keep me in the moment. So I'm going to edit the tar out of this. But like, it's an interesting concept and I personally want to see where it goes, but it's a, it's going to be if I'm an agent and I'm going, wow, there's a lot of editing that needs to happen to do this before I actually can show it to a an acquisitions editor.

Do I really want to spend that kind of time on it? I mean, this now becomes this is why the industry sucks so bad because there's no there's nothing but subjective ness. So as an agent, some agents are going to read this and go, you know, this is a part of that. Whatever, you know, this could you could say that this strays into some of the political stuff going on or whatever, and they're gonna be like, I don't want to have any to do with this and they're going to reject it on that.

Some are going to be like, okay, I'm actually interested in this. I want to see where it goes. But do I, you know, do I want to spend the time to fix it up? And then it becomes my objectiveness. It becomes me as an agent, do I like this story enough personally? Yeah. To take it on, to fix it, to try and make money off of it.

And a lot of times the answer is yes. A lot of times you get an agent that will put that money, you know, time and effort and because they actually really like the story. So that's the way I think this industry.

I think what you need to what you need to work on if you're the author of this is stay in media res and cut down on the exposition you did not need this info dump here. Now we did not need this this info dump in dialog here. Like there's a lot of info dumping going on.

Yeah. Because everyone in that room knows that the Guardian Shepherds control most of the planet. Yeah.

Everyone knows.

That. Now you can do stuff you can do. So here's the thing about, you know, lines like this. You can do things that are more natural that people actually do say that isn't for the readers. Like this line is for the reader. But, you know, if he says something like where, where can anyone go that the Guardian Shepherd doesn't control like that?

People say that all the time, and then that gives the reader, they control a lot. They control everything because they don't even know where to go. Yeah.

So that gives the reader exactly what they need to know.

You still got to you stop to give information to the reader. You just have to do it in a way that is an A, As you know, they control all of this. But I'm going to say it anyway, even though you know it, because there is this magical entity reading our story that doesn't know it, and I'm going to give them that information.

So really interesting story. Join a writers group, really get other people to kick this around and look at it and help you, you know, improve on the flow of it and some of these other things. And you I think you might have a winner here.

Yeah, I think you've definitely got a potential on, on, on the page. Just work on your your craft.

If you're going to go for the Now could this be self-published and be successful? Maybe because again readers are a heck of a lot less. We're not talking about the reading side here. We're not we're talking with the industry. So just understand that for everybody who has submitted first pages here, if you're trying to get the industry to buy this, this is going to take a lot of work.

Anyone who knows anything which an agent knows stuff is going to know that they're going to have to spend a lot of time editing this. Yeah, and that's going to take months of time. They're going to get personally involved in on it. And the only ones that are going to do that is an agent who reads it and goes, I love this story personally.

I'm going to spend my time because I want this story out on the market and those are few and far between.

Yeah, you're going to struggle to get accepted. Alright, story 6. 8 billion people. And yet we were still lonely. So we did what we do best. We worked on developing a tool to solve our problems, but loneliness isn't such an easy problem to solve. It can't be solved with conquest or money or sugar. So we had to be creative.

It could only be solved by making even more of us. Thus began humanity's most ambitious project to play God. Yeah. Okay. Where are you at?



And then I just started. I stopped reading and just started looking down. And we're still in.

We're. But it's an exposition. The whole first page isn't exposition.

Yeah. I mean, and again, this has nothing do with the story. The story may be very interesting, but most agents, again, this is one of those pieces that an agent is going to have to fall in love with the story. Yeah, most agents are looking for something that they're going to sell easier, and what sells easier is one character in one head.

Not necessarily. I mean, you have multiple carries. My saying in the scene, I'm in one head and I'm connected to a person.

So like with an emissary, it's very literary fiction.


I yeah.


A peanut gallery says reads like a plot. Prolog Yes, it reads. It reads like a classic eighties sci fi Prologs What it reads.

Like, Yeah.

And those were popular and I'm sorry to do this to you 40 years ago.


And it is shocking to me that it was 40 years ago and it just remains shocking to me. But it has been 40 years, so they're not not popular anymore.

I only know of one book that's published in First Person Plural Wives of Los Alamos and while it did sell well, several hundred thousand copies, I don't know if it ever crossed a million, but it might have. The vast majority of the reviews are negative, and it's all because of second person plural. So it would do stuff like like I've memorized kind of the opening of it.

We were we were in our kitchens when our doorbells rang. We wiped our hands on our aprons and went into our our, our living rooms where our husbands sat in their favorite chair. The man at the door was sharply dressed, and our husbands welcomed him inside. We offered him a beverage, but he declined. And he he and our husbands went into their offices to discuss.

So I don't think that that is what this author is doing. This old.

No, no, no joking about the humanity. Right. Right. No, they're not writing in first person, plural. What I'm getting at is even though an agent was convinced to take that book on and the publisher who bought it was actually the publisher who published Harry Potter original, not the one that made a lot of money off of it, but the original publisher, before they sold it to Simon Schuster, whoever they I think it was Simon Schuster.

They sold it to. But again, the number one thing that people complain about is the way it was written and that's a shame when the story was actually kind of cool. It's about the wives of the scientists who were secretly taken away to make the the atom bomb. And so instead of creating a fictitious character and getting aspects of the individual wives, this author decided to make a plural character that was every wife, all of them in one character and never stop.

The whole book is written that way and it is incredibly hard to read. Yeah. And so while the story very interesting. So that's what this reminds me of. And so what an agent's going to have to do is they're going to have to decide are they going to be able to convince because like that is a big deal.

I want to tell you a story about from the perspective of the wives of the scientists that invented the nuclear bomb. They were all moved to this secret base, had to develop, moved their families there, had to live in secret. And all this a very interesting story. And it's based on factual, you know, events. So therefore, I think that's the reason why they were able to sell it.

But this is a sci fi story, so that's why I'm out is because it's an agent. I'm like, I’m not, there's nothing I can do with this. Yeah. Okay.

Story seven A Raven's Cry. That's what told Rurik their lives here were over the birds mournful croak reached him while he saw the row of barley at the fields edge looking up through the fog, he glimpsed the cloak figure among the trees. It wasn't much a flourish of black and a flash of a pale, vicious face under the hood.

That's when he knew there must leave this place. Whatever lies he told himself afterward in his heart, he knew that terrible knowledge froze him for an instant. Then he shoved it aside in the wilderness. A stranger was an intruder. He must learn who the figure was and he and what he wanted. He dropped his side and snatched up his sword, which which lay nearby, as always, and lunged through the golden barley into the trees, spruce needles crunched underfoot and branches tore at his beard and tunic.

As he barreled through the underbrush, the autumn gloom turned to twilight under the trees and the air was crisp and resinous tinged with sea salt. He found no one and could see little through the fog that blanketed everything. The woods was silent, but for the calls of his fellow workers and the low roar of the sea and of the cliffs and the fog muffled even those he had imagined it feeling himself hesitate Once again, he turned toward the field and called to arms.

I'm not sure I might be why you out again?

It goes back to that. It's a very omniscient. We're not this is not written in limited. We're not in Ruriks head. We are in a third party. narrator who is narrating Rurik story just like Lord of the Rings. And I just see so many agents passing on these just every single time. And so as an agent, I'm going to go, Yeah, this is somebody else trying to copy Lord of the Rings.

It's knocking it. Lord of the Rings would not sell today. If it didn't exist. And somebody just took Lord of the Rings exactly the way it's written into an agent. And they've already proved that they've taken a bunch of books that were massively popular from 1500 years ago, changed the names and all of that, submitted them to dozens of publishers, and they were 100% rejected.

We don't readers don't consume stories this way anymore. And so many writers fall in love with the Bell Jar yet you know by David adding is great loved it but you can't sell the big order yet anymore.

So I've got I don't have I don't have a problem with that actually I'm I'm okay with the with it being in the slightly removed sense because to me it is still limited enough It's not close it's not a close P.O.V., It is somewhat removed, but it doesn't feel like it's omniscient omniscient. Okay.

So we do really well in the as a self-published book. Again, what we're doing here is would an agent buy this.

So I why I think an agent might actually be out is because this line returns to the field and it calls to arms. I'm like.

The stuff that.

To me that threw me out. Yeah. Because I'm like, he's going to investigate. But there are people that he could call to arms like it doesn't something about it doesn't feel right.

Actually, it was the disconnection between for me it was a distraction. I mean the the line right before it, maybe he had imagined it. I might have imagined this. So let me go ahead and cry wolf and get a whole bunch of guards come and help me with this. Yes. What I just think of is, is that imagination.

Yeah. So he'd imagined it, and then he turns the calls to the like. It doesn't like that doesn't flow right to me.

But again, that's where the that's where the pushback for me happens with why it's omniscient. So if it was limited, we're going to write it in a way to Where did I just see something? Let me go take a look. I might have saw something. I think I saw. But in this it was he saw it. He saw this.

This is what it looked like and this is what it was. And then we get the. Maybe he imagined it. Well, that's omniscient because we know for a fact that he saw it. But we also know for a fact that he's doubting himself because we're an omniscient narrator. Like. So he notes, actually.

Like, if if he just cut this line, it would it would all be limited. This is the only omniscient line.

Now, I disagree with that because even like the he knew and.


The next line that yeah, that that's lots.

Lots and lots and lots of authors right right was he knew. Yeah plenty of published.

Authors on a percent.

I do not think that'll throw an agent.

Well that's why there's two of us doing this now. Why were you out.

Yeah. So that one I don't I don't think is because. Because I've seen so many published books with like he knew.

Well, it's not just the new, it's the whole thing. That's when he knew he must leave this place. Whatever lies he told himself afterwards in his heart, he knew. There's no feeling to that. You're telling me what he's feeling. And that's what Omniscient gives you. It gives you this very telling way of describing everything.

That's why I still feel you're in. You're in his head because you're not in anybody else's head. You're only in his head.

here is the character, which is what you think of going forward.

And so I'm not I wouldn't call this omniscient, would pull this. I wouldn't call this close. Like it's not third person close, but it's I wouldn't call it omniscient. It's irrelevant because this this threw me out like these two lines in combination, trust me.

So. But it's also very telly.


So the story may be good, but if I'm an agent, I'm. I feel like this is written in omniscient, and so I'm going to. It's the same thing that I said with that other story where it feels like it's somebody who writes in that old style. And I just don't see a lot of those books hitting the market.

Not that they aren't hitting the market.

You know, this this paragraph as well, like in the wilderness, a stranger was an intruder. He must learn who the figure was and what it wanted. Right. That reads like an info dump.

Right. So the first line you could say is limited. Yeah. The fourth line, except for the which lay nearby as always.

Yes. That also threw me out right.

Is limited.

But this this in the middle is info dumpy, omniscient, omniscient. Info dump.


So like when you giving information in third person limited, the information must sound as though it comes out of the character's head, as though the character is narrating. It's part of the narration of their lives.

The narration should read from the character how the character sees the world around them. Yeah. Yeah.

Okay. Story eight. She had always hated being outside. Daylight poured in as the doors to the main courtyard opened. Piper half closed their eyes at the rush of freezing cold air. She barely felt the chill, the note of her stomach was so tight she clenched her left hand and took a breath. She was in line with half a dozen other people, all of whom started moving into the courtyard.

Once the doors were open, she talked her furs and woolens closer as she stepped into the cold outdoors. The ice and snow of the courtyard crunched under the group's heavy boots. As thick as the comforting enclosure of the tunnels was left behind. She had the walls of the courtyard around her, but the ceiling was gone. Open air stretching out to the swirling gray clouds overhead.

Piper kept her attention focused on the ground ahead of her looking up, made her dizzy. All that space just seemed unnatural. It also didn't help that when she looked at the haze, it felt as if it was looking back at her. The town's ogre was standing sentry in its usual place. In one corner of the courtyard, the aged machine looked like a squat, armored knight standing twice as tall as any man, and carrying its grand cannon on one arm like a soldier on March.

Piper had seen the thing move maybe three times in her lifetime, and it was probably for the best from the rest. But the place covering its body, it was clear the ogre was older than the fort it protected. In any case, it was the days visitors who did the real work when it came to defending people from the monsters out beyond the walls.

In the center of the courtyard, a five post tent had been set up. Standing in front of it was a grizzled man with a gray beard and a stern look in his eyes. His shirt bore a torch for a torch superimposed over a shield, the mock of the warden's pipe. His pulse quickened at the sight. Years of waiting, fighting through setbacks and rebuilding himself to get here.

Now, finally, her day had come. The group lined up in front of the tent. Most of them were around Piper's age, just a year or two into adulthood. She recognized them all as neighbors and friends from around town. They exchanged looks ranging from nervous to appraising. The warden's visit was a chance to make something more of yourself if you were willing to risk.

It goes on a little bit, but I think we'll stop there because I think. Paige Yeah, I think suffice to say, we would at least turn the page.

So it needs work. Yeah, there's definitely some things to be taken up. Definitely saying things to be enhanced, but there was nothing egregious that I think an agent would go this. So everything we've talked about so far and I hope I'm not offending the other seven authors, but everything we've talked about so far are things that we can either go, I assume that this is going to be a problem throughout and I don't want to take the time to fix it or, you know, it's just not what I think I can sell.

You know, those are the two things I think I've said the most. This one, it didn't grab me. So an agent may have rejected it before I stopped, but it's some things. It's like, that's not a hard fix. That's not a hard fix. With a little bit of effort. I can like if I was an agent, I can go look, I can actually spend a day or two with this author, teach them a few things that are egregious that could be really fixed.

To take this to another level. And then if the story is good, it's not going to take much effort on my part to get this into a sellable condition.

So to the author, a great way to make this instantaneously grab able is if you combine the nervous fear we feel here with the anticipation that she feels, will the warden be there?

Yes, because.

The problem is at the moment, remember, we did that tension, tension

episode, I don’t know if it was one or two episodes ago, where we spoke about conflicting emotions. This is an ideal place to put conflicting emotions and turn that first paragraph into an instantaneous hook.

Yeah, that's why I said this isn't great, but I don't think this is hard to fix. Yeah, with the right guidance. So I think this is, you know, one, it feels like it's written in limited, it's not overly telly, it's not info dumpy, it doesn't have any of those big red warning signs that makes me go, this is just going to be throughout this whole entire thing.

And, you know, it's going to have to take major surgery to cut this stuff out and change this stuff. So it's it's definitely not I didn't get to the end to go, I'm buying this. How do I contact this this author to get the rest his manuscript? But it's definitely this is one that I would put into the pile of, you know what, I'm going to ask for a few more chapters of this.

I'm going to see how much work this is going to take, If it really holds up that it's not going to take that much. I'm going to have a chat with the author and say, Hey, if you're willing to work with me a little bit, there's some I want you to do some pretty, pretty heavy changes to this.

But if you're willing to work with me on this, I think we can get this to a part that that we can sell it. And then at that point, this is something we've never talked about at that point. You also understand it's not only a buyer's market on the manuscripts, it's also a buyer's market on authors. So let's say now I contact this person, I do a zoom call with them and I say, Look, there's still some things you need to work on.

And they're like, I’ll kill you. I'm going to be like, yeah, I know this person is going to be too hard to work with. While the manuscript may be almost there, the person is going to be difficult to work with. So I'm out. So that's another aspect of this is you also have to be easy to work with.

So like the guys that are at Harn World, the number one comment that they keep sending to me as we've been going through the edits of this is like, I can't believe how easy you are to work with. Like this is so awesome. Like they're not even really even talking to me about the story that I wrote. I mean, they are because whatever.

But like one of their big comments were, I just want to thank you so much for how easy you are to work with. You've made my job so much easier. And again, that's how you know, that's a part of this process as well. Not only do you need to be a good writer, but you also need to be good to work with.

So, you know, obviously you could fall apart there, but this is that I think an agent may actually reach out, get a few more chapters, find out if it is, you know. If it goes longer than that, it's very workable. Then have a meeting with the with the author. And if they seem workable, sign them. Yeah, it's so that they work.

And so there's no agents out there that are just used car salesmen this like now. No, I don't want to spend that time. I'm going to keep looking.

Number nine, if there was frost in the air when a child was born, the old story said to keep the wind locked out from the shutters and spread salt before every door to ward off foul spirits that descended from the mountains. Each year. The Earth, The earth sleep is fitful in the cold it stirs to so its curse stealing the fiery souls of newborns.

It was an old wives tale to explain away stillbirths. There were no lurking, malevolent spirits in the shadows, and little salt wouldn't stop a curse any more than a please or a thank. You could. But I'd taken to carrying around part of the stuff anyway. Even At the height of summer, it was all I could do to ward off watching eyes, the prickling stare the city through every crack in the windows creeping down my spine.

It shivers whenever the wicker left their bone wiped our to collect tithes from the noble houses of Alaric. Mothers scoff that fairy tales, but even she made certain to pay tithe on a strict schedule, not out of any sense of devotion, mind you, but because of a bit because a satisfied Wicca was one who wouldn't stay long enough to find me.

And notice I was one of them. I was to stay away as I was to stay far away from the door when winter came. No matter the guest list, they catch my scent on the air and ferry me away to the tower. Never to see the light of day again. Some said when wicked children were taken, they were eaten and replaced by clay statues that moved and talked like people had nothing left inside and like clay Wicker could change their shapes, grind up bones and use them to forge their features to match whatever face you found the most trusting before stabbing you in the back with claws of the wild beasts.

I'm going to stop there. Okay. I was in until we hit the spot.

Where were you at?

Technically, I was out in the opening paragraph, and then we got to the next paragraph and it was like, okay. Because I was like, we literally just about this, about that old 70 style omniscient. But then it's like, wait, this isn't first person. I'm going to give it a little time because that's interesting. Yeah, but to me, that second paragraph is fantastic.

Yes. If the first paragraph was written that way and the third and fourth paragraph written that way, and this is what I mean by that in the second paragraph, it's all me connecting to the character. And really it could even happen sooner, but because it could happen sooner in that first sentence. But I mean the second sentence. So let's take out the first sentence.

The it was the old wives tale to explain away stillbirths, because that is a to the action. So if we just start off, there were no lurking experience in the shadows and a little salt wouldn't wouldn't stop a curse any more than a please or a thank you could. But I've taken to carrying carrying around a pot of the stuff anyway.

It's like, okay, well, so you don't believe, but you're doing it. That's interesting. Even at the height of summer, it was all I could do to ward off watching eyes. Prickling stares at every crack window creeping down my spine and shivers whenever that wicker left my bone. And like, it's all very visceral and very me and very now and very connective.

So we start in this omniscient and we come into this visceral and then we the next one is okay. It's not devoid, but then it gets the void again. And so the writing is good that, you know, as far as the grammar and the sentence structure and all of that, this author has a really good grasp of that.

But this went on way too long, right? This last paragraph. Some said wicked when wicked children were taken, they were eaten and replaced by statues like one that sentences long. But to this whole paragraph just seems to go on. It's a hell of an info dump.

Yeah. So here's the problem that I have. The big problem. So this last weekend was my weekend to teach and I was teaching point of view. And one of the things I talk about with first person, I think the number one thing you should try for with first person to really make it shine is it should have a unique voice.

And I say if it starts to read like prose, because first person, in my opinion, shouldn't read like prose, it should read like the characters talking to you that you're actually connected to this really cool. You know, look at look at Jim Butcher with the Dresden series. And I'm not going to say the first book was great, but he definitely gets really good as the series goes on in how he writes first person.

So I'm not some of the stories I'm talking about how he his command of first person. Yeah I feel like when it starts sounding like prose you would be better served to write it in third person because third person. So when first person is written in something that sounds like prose, it seems very obvious to me. So info dumps and telling this start to really show themselves in third person the prose naturally becomes invisible because we're so used to consuming everything in third person in prose.

So when it reads like prose, if that's your writing style, one of my recommendations is always to like, you really should think about writing in third person, because third person is supposed to sound prose like, that's kind of the point of it. Even when you're writing in Limited, which, you know, my limited, I write exactly like first person just in third person pronouns.

It's still kind of feels prose because third person is supposed to feel that way When your first person feels prose, I think that you're just not doing first person.

It's very noticeable in first person, right info dumps and tellyness becomes super noticeable.

Yeah. Which is why they're noticeable in third person too, because prose doesn't hide info dumps or tells when you're writing first person and voice in character voice, you can info dump and tell all you want and it almost becomes invisible. You should not. You should not info dump intel. I'm not saying to do that, but it you're saying becomes invisible.

Because because it is infused with a character's voice and the character's voice is what keeps the reader.

That sounds active. It's like you don't even kind of realize that you're just being puked information out because it's being puked at you in a voice as opposed to prose. Yeah. So that that the author's grasp of grammar and this is fine.

The story's got an interesting element to it.

Very much so. But, but it's the back and forth between I'm really in the first person character. I'm not in the first person character. I'm really in the first person. And it's that that that is going to keep the reader from connecting to it and make it a harder thing to sell.

And that was it. That was our publishing game, our second round of the publishing game. What did you think in the comments? Would you have bought any of these books if you opened them up and it was their first look inside? Let us know down below.

Otherwise, if you're the authors don't hate us too much, please. You're trying to show you what the industry thinks like not what we think like. So hopefully it's to give you some things to think about. If you're trying to submit to the industry again, this is not for submitting to Marie and Drake. This is and and again, this we're being general here.

Are there agents that are going to be different? Absolutely, 100%. I mean, maybe one of these nine, they're like, I've already signed with an agent. They love my stuff. Great. We're not saying that. We're just giving what we know from the agents that we've had experience with, from what we've seen of publishers and kind of how those people we see them thinking, we're not publishers, we're not agents, so we don't have to think that way.

So don't hate the messenger is basically what I'm trying to say. We're just trying to give you some advice to help you think differently. If you're going to submit to industry, a lot of these books may be very successful with an audience, but you got to understand there's a difference between being successful with a reader and being successful with getting somebody to put money behind it.

Those are two different animals. So and I.

Think that that is a good place to end this episode. And we will see you soon for another one. Bye.

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