PDA

View Full Version : 2 questions



Umgowa
04-20-2011, 08:28 PM
We are always hearing generalities about what agents supposedly like and what they hate in query letters or a manuscripts, etc. Here are two issues I would love some feedback on: 1) Agents hate query letters that start out with a question. "What happens when Roger finds out his wife is a communist spy?" for example. And issue two: 2) I recently heard that agents hate prologues. Could you please tell me if there is any substance in these two generalities? Thank you very much.

Cyia
04-20-2011, 08:41 PM
1 - the question into is one of, if not the, most common openings to a query letter. It's developed into a sort of game where people try and find the most inappropriate answer possible, which puts them in the wrong frame of mind.

2 - most prologues are thinly disguised info-dumps.

maestrowork
04-20-2011, 09:56 PM
Both are issues because writers tend to overuse or misuse them.

1. Many writers open with a question or a "what if" scenario that is neither unique, intriguing, or even interesting. Most often, it can be done better with a straightforward query. "What if your girlfriend is a spy?" Ho-hum. Most of these also turn out rather cheesy.

2. Prologues are often done badly by new writers. Either they're info dumps, or unnecessary, or it has nothing to do with the main story, or they're just not very interesting. The agent wants to see if you can begin the story well, not if you have 15 pages of backstories to tell.

quicklime
04-20-2011, 10:22 PM
umgowa,

I think people here "hate" prologues for any number of reasons, but it you look through the first ten pages of threads in "novels" and "Basic Writing Questions" you will probably find at least three prologue threads. And you can see how folks here like them, and then consider how many agents you possibly want to pre-weed with a clunky prologue in the query

Agents are busy, and agents are looking to say no, not because they want to crush you or fail themselves, they all want the next best thing, but they have mountains of queries. they're working triage. Things look so exceptional they will continue, or anything less they will toss aside instead of hunting through the whole thing to the bitter end just in case there is a nugget somewhere in there. If a number of them view prologues skeptically, you don't want to start out with one foot in a hole and then have to work it out again--selling is plenty hard as it is. A brilliant story would brobably let you pitch with the salutation "Yo, Bitch," too, but I'd advise against it.

The bigger issue in your case is the fact you put a good chunk of prologue in your query; you devoted like 1/3 of the query to setting up what I assume is like ten pages of your book, or 1/40th. Does that seem like a good return on effort, especially since the prologue is usually arguably disposeable?


as for questions, like ciya said, it is easy to say no...or worse, to ridicule.


"Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a battle-scarred alien space captain?"

maybe, maybe not. Even if I go "huh, yeah, just the other day..." it still isn't as grabbing as actually starting the story:

"Rex Deacon has damn few rules for his ship, few enough he can tick them off on the wreckage of his right hand without needing the six fingers on his left."

people THINK the questions open an agent up, but do you have kids? Ever really busy, and then they come up and say

"Umm, Dad, I, uh, um, I was talking to my brother, and um, if you say no, that's ok, but, um, we were wondering, if it would be ok, and if it isn't then that IS ok, but..."

until you're biting back a "Oh my god, just fucking get on with it!"

Ever have that? agents are busy too, and if you ask a question, you're the one "not fucking getting on with it".. a random question may mark you as an amateur, it may lead them to a shrug and moving on, because their answer wasn't the one you were looking for, it may lead them to move on to someone who can actualy get their show on the road because they're busy and apparently you'd rather play guessing games than get your story moving, etc..... Conversely, what do you think the question offers, and more importantly, what does it offer that you can't get by actually grabbing them right off the bat, and LEADING them, instead of asking a question and hoping they choose to follow?

MikeGrant
04-20-2011, 11:19 PM
Agents do indeed hate rhetorical questions at the start of a query. Don't do it.

The prologue thing is personal taste. Good prologues are awesome. Bad prologues are horrible. But you could so easily say that about Chapter Ones as well! I think prologues get a bad press simply because so many of them are bad.

CheyElizabeth
04-20-2011, 11:27 PM
Agents hate rhetorical questions.

As for the prologues, there are arguments for and against it (mostly against), but I have personally never read a prologue in a book, ever, ever, in my whole life. That'd be like asking me to read the instructions before I rip everything out of the box and try assembling it myself. Not gonna happen.

Gillhoughly
04-20-2011, 11:44 PM
This: How to write a good query.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

When in the submission process only send the first 50-double spaced pages beginning with chapter one.

It's not that agents hate prologues, but they HAVE to know you know how to deal with a strong hook for your beginning. If you convince them that your writing is worth additional attention, then you can send the whole MS, prologue and all.

As an editor and a reader, I am no fan of prologues. I want the writer to jump headfirst into the action and have me flipping pages from the start to see what happens next.

In a bookstore, I will skip prologues and read the first chapter's opening. If it's interesting, then I check the prologue out. Agents do the same thing.

Jamesaritchie
04-21-2011, 04:36 AM
Agents hate poor writing, poor storytelling, and cardboard characters. Agents also hate lack or originality in query letters, and in manuscripts.

Too many great novels with prologues get published to say anyone hates them. What they do hate are prologues that should be chapter one, and prologues that are long and boring. A good prologue should be just as exciting as chapter one.

Questions are simply overdone and poorly done.

Boring is the big point in every area. The moment you bore an agent or an editor, you;re done.

Umgowa
04-21-2011, 03:39 PM
Wow!! As a big fan of prologues I'm shocked to hear all the negative attitudes of others. I am certainly going to take heed. My prologue is intriguing and important to the plot. I think I will simply rename it and call it "Chapter 1". Then I will begin Chapter 2 with the subscript (20 years later). This should eliminate all the stigma attached to the word "prologue". My "Chapter 1" (formerly Prologue) is so intriguing that by the time the reader is into it, they will be hooked. I don't mean to be glib or overly simplistic here, but I think this is a good solution. Do you agree?

Purple Rose
04-21-2011, 05:02 PM
I think I will simply rename it and call it "Chapter 1". Then I will begin Chapter 2 with the subscript (20 years later).

I think a lot of AWers did just that after reading various threads on this topic.

I ended up doing the reverse - my five-page Chapter 1 became the two-page prologue. Personally, I think it is much better.

Snowstorm
04-21-2011, 05:34 PM
This: How to write a good query.http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

When in the submission process only send the first 50-double spaced pages beginning with chapter one.

In a bookstore, I will skip prologues and read the first chapter's opening. If it's interesting, then I check the prologue out. Agents do the same thing.

Thank you, Gillhoughly! I had your link already bookmarked, but at the top of the Shark's blog was a plug for Suzie Townsend's now "First Page" critique blog. What a wonderful resource and applies to the OP--not particularly to prologues, but to the opening of a novel.

Graz
04-21-2011, 08:04 PM
Drop the "What happens" and the question mark, then finish the sentence

maestrowork
04-21-2011, 08:54 PM
Wow!! As a big fan of prologues I'm shocked to hear all the negative attitudes of others. I am certainly going to take heed. My prologue is intriguing and important to the plot. I think I will simply rename it and call it "Chapter 1". Then I will begin Chapter 2 with the subscript (20 years later). This should eliminate all the stigma attached to the word "prologue". My "Chapter 1" (formerly Prologue) is so intriguing that by the time the reader is into it, they will be hooked. I don't mean to be glib or overly simplistic here, but I think this is a good solution. Do you agree?

If it's IMPORTANT to the plot, then make it part of the story: Chapter 1. You don't want your readers to miss anything, do you? There's really no reason why there can't be a 20-year gap between Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, as long it makes sense (there's a 11-year gap between Chapter 1 and 2 in Harry Potter. It worked).

Umgowa
04-21-2011, 11:29 PM
Very, Very helpful comments. Thank you so much.