Our friends Bill the Hotel Guy and Randall are currently partying together in Ibiza. My husband E gets emails from them at all hours. “Elonious!” This is Bill’s nickname for my husband. Bill is instant-messaging him from the depths of the nightclub Pasha. “This is off the hook!” A few hours later, E gets another message. “Now we’re at Space. This is off the hook! These chicks are crazy!” The next morning, as E is preparing to drive to work, he emails Bill rather dryly, “So did you guys have a good time last night?” The reply: “Dude, we’re still drunk! We haven’t gone home yet! This is off the hook!” (I’m paraphrasing here, but you get the idea — if the contents of the emails ever vary, it’s along the lines of ‘Pasha is off the hool!’).
ANDREA SOMBERG AND THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, part 2
Andrea Somberg is my literary agent. When I met with her in NY last month we talked a little bit about her practice of requesting the first five pages of any manuscript that seems like it might have promise. Most manuscripts don’t make it beyond the five-page point, partly because the laws of supply and demand don’t exactly favor the aspiring writer. Later, she emailed me some more thoughts on the matter which I immediately posted to my blog (if you scroll down a bit you can find it).
Today, she responded in a bit more detail about “what I look for in the first five pages I receive.
Every manuscript I take on is distinctive in its own right, but all
of of them have one thing in common: an engaging narrative voice. By
this I mean a writing style that pulls me in and makes me feel like
I’m a part of the story and the characters’ lives. Unfortunately,
this is very hard to explain (hence my delay in writing to you!) and
it’s obviously even harder to accomplish. I think that authors,
being the wonderful lovers of language that they are, sometimes
forget that the primary purpose of writing is communication. Too
often I see manuscripts in which the prose is too self-conscious,
chock full of symbolism and SAT-type vocabulary. Tell your story,
tell it well, and your distinctive narrative voice should blossom
naturally. So, an engaging narrative voice is vital. I also like it
when I’m introduced to compelling characters, protagonists that are
sympathetic yet complex. Another thing I look for is high line
tension, best described as the ability to create enough of a question
in the reader’s mind to keep them turning the pages. Cliches, bad
grammar, too many adjectives, and awkward prose are all turn-offs.
She added that she should be in touch with me about my YA novel STRANGER — which I finished and submitted to her around the end of July — by the end of the week.