Agents and the Slushpile: 10 Reasons They Stop Reading

My friend Kerrie Flanagan, who runs the Northern Colorado Writers’ Conference (in Fort Collins) recently pointed me to a guest blog column on her site.  The guest column examined a session at a recent writers’ conference where four literary agents listened to a few pages from a slush pile submission.  The agents would listen to a slush pile submission being read aloud and shared their reasons for what didn’t work or what would make them stop reading.

Here are the top 10:

10. Overdone description that doesn’t move the story forward
9. Spoon-feeding the reader what the character is thinking
8. Having the characters address each other repeatedly by name, as in, “John, let’s go!”
7. Introducing a character with first and last name, as in, “John Smith entered the room.”
6. Beginning a story with dialogue
5. Opening with a cliché
4. Yanking the reader out of the action with backstory
3. Not giving the reader a sense of place or where the story is going
2. Characters are MIA until bottom of page 2
1. Telling instead of showing

To see all of Laura Bridgwater’s guest column on The Writing Bug Web site, click here.

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4 thoughts on “Agents and the Slushpile: 10 Reasons They Stop Reading

  1. Patricia Stoltey

    Chuck, Thanks for sending your readers to Laura’s guest blog and to Northern Colorado Writers. As for the agent slush pile session at the conference, I think we were more educated by the "speed read and evaluate" process than we would be by reading a dozen articles. One thing we learned is that agents are human, and each one sees our work from a different perspective. If we’re lucky enough to get feedback, we evaluate, think it through, and we move on, but we don’t necessarily eliminate opening dialogue just because one agent doesn’t like it.



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