Based on personal experience as a first-reader intern for a literary agency, I’m sharing what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and into the hands of the agent.
There’s probably nothing more frustrating to a slush pile reader than the anticipation of a story with a great hook, but then the author doesn’t follow through.
How can we keep this from happening, Donna?
Is your story more than a good idea? It must be a great story that is executed on. Remember, a story is a promise to be kept if you want to keep the reader reading.
Donna’s notes on an actual manuscript plucked out of the slush pile: “I so wanted to like this book! It has a fun premise and if executed well could be a book that boys and girls alike enjoy. It’s a fresh concept with lots of potential for action and adventure combining futuristic technology – BUT I needed more of a reason to care about why this story is being told. I needed to be engaged and I wasn’t. The story fell apart and its promise was never delivered on.”
Wow! Wouldn’t you just want to smack yourself upside the head if this was your manuscript? Yikes! Help Donna! How can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?
Okay, troops, ask yourself: Does everything happen with a purpose in your scene?
TIP: Outline the purpose of each scene/chapter and connect it to the story arc and character arc to strengthen the story and move it along. Everything your characters do must have purpose and consequences.
Specifically, write out for each chapter: Main character’s goals of each chapter/scene What the main character discovers in each scene and how it propels him/her forward What we can learn about other characters in each scene through dialogue and action World building goals for each scene Outer turning point: in each scene which things change that everyone can understand Inner turning point: in each scene which the scene’s point of view character also changes as a result
Outline this for each chapter and you will have a guide to stay on track with your story’s promise!
Do your characters have a special condition? Are they a burn victim, blind, or an amputee? If so this must play a role in the story. Don’t offer it to us as a promise to be part of the story and not deliver on it.
Now go. Work on making that hook follow through with each scene! It may help you get past the gatekeeper.
About Donna: Donna Galanti is the author of A Human Element and A Hidden Element (Imajin Books), the first two award-winning, bestselling books in the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy, and the middle grade fantasy adventure series Joshua and The Lightning Road (Month9Books). Donna is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs at Project Mayhem. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. Visit her at www.donnagalanti.com.
About Joshua and the Lightning Road:
Twelve-year-old Joshua Cooper learns the hard way that lightning never strikes by chance when a bolt strikes his house and whisks away his best friend—possibly forever. To get him back, Joshua must travel the Lightning Road to a dark world where stolen human kids are work slaves ruled by the frustrated heirs of the Greek Olympians who come to see Joshua as the hero prophesied to restore their lost powers. New friends come to Joshua’s aid and while battling beasts and bandits and fending off the Child Collector, Joshua’s mission quickly becomes more than a search for his friend—it becomes the battle of his life.