Prologues

This topic contains 36 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  Anonymous 8 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #346541

    Anonymous

    I sure do love critiquing and there may be some who can’t wait to take a whack at me. But I have a prologue. I read the web site main article about prologues and mine fits every category of a good and necessary prologue. It is short, it is the pivotal point in the story, it enhances the plot that is to come. My story is about a high school girl who joins the National Guard to get money for college and ends up in Iraq instead. So I have about fifty pages establishing her wonderful life before it comes crashing down, and I need the prologue to set up that this is at heart a military novel about a 20-year old girl stuck in the Battle of Fallujah. I don’t want my post to turn into a robust discussion of the use of prologues. And if I have to explain why I am using a prologue at the top of the page, I feel I have already failed. But I want to post the prologue and then maybe 50 words from the first chapter so readers can see the jump from prologue to present, otherwise it is out of context, because prologues don’t stand alone, do they? What to do?

  • #654808

    Anonymous

    I would just post it for critique, perhaps with a reminder that it’s not a discussion about prologues. And of course, if someone diverts to that, you can either just ignore it or report it, whichever you choose.

  • #654809

    Anonymous

    Alice Holt wrote:
    > I sure do love critiquing and there may be some who can’t wait to take a
    > whack at me. But I have a prologue. I read the web site main article about
    > prologues and mine fits every category of a good and necessary prologue. It
    > is short, it is the pivotal point in the story, it enhances the plot that
    > is to come. My story is about a high school girl who joins the National
    > Guard to get money for college and ends up in Iraq instead. So I have about
    > fifty pages establishing her wonderful life before it comes crashing down,
    > and I need the prologue to set up that this is at heart a military novel
    > about a 20-year old girl stuck in the Battle of Fallujah. I don’t want my
    > post to turn into a robust discussion of the use of prologues. And if I
    > have to explain why I am using a prologue at the top of the page, I feel I
    > have already failed. But I want to post the prologue and then maybe 50
    > words from the first chapter so readers can see the jump from prologue to
    > present, otherwise it is out of context, because prologues don’t stand
    > alone, do they? What to do?
    =========

    So post it already. The worst that happens is that folks ignore it.

    The problem with prologues are that many readers skip to chapter 1 to start reading immediately.

    50 pages establishing anything sounds incredibly slow and boring. Was establishing the word you really meant?

    I found a number of things about prologue at WD. Which one did you refer to?:

    One of them says this:
    You can use a prologue , but it’s used only to explain key information that doesn’t follow the time flow of the rest of your book. So if your “prologue” doesn’t fit this criterion, either cut it or change it to Chapter 1.

    Does that fit your case ?

    Another says this:
    Prologues aren’t inherently evil or indicative of poor writing. Prologues can—and have been—executed with skill. But are they necessary?
    That, in my opinion, is the biggest question—not “should I write a prologue” but “does a prologue improve my story?”

    So does it improve your story ?

    Would a flashback work better? Would just letting it out slowly with the narration work better?

  • #654810

    Anonymous

    There are a hundred ways to organize a novel. I could call it Chapter One and then go into flashback mode. But as it stands,the Prologue is a scene that actually happens in the middle of the book when she finally realizes how screwed up she is and needs to get help. The fifty pages is the set-up for her new life straddling the military-civilian divide. It wasn’t boring to write it, and not boring when I read it, and my trusted beta reader loves it. She said she wanted to experience my character’s life before I destroy it. I tried writing it backwards and then in alternating past and present chapters. The straight narrative just seems to flow better.

  • #654811

    Anonymous

    I’m one of the radical anti-prologue-ists. It’s based on my experience as a reader. But I’m not the kind to say that what I believe is the only way.

    Here’s what I experience as a reader: A prologue is an artificial construct. It’s trying to make me see something. But I want to discover the story and the characters therein. I’ve yet to read a prologue that I thought needed to be there. Yes, some have been well written, even excellent. But I, personally, have always felt like the writer could not trust me to follow the story.

    I acknowledge, however, that I am a minority in that attitude.

  • #654812

    Anonymous

    Yeah, being a writer, I, as a reader, trust the writer. If they put in a prologue, I know it’s because they – and their agent and publisher – thought it should be there. Some are good, some not so good – but then there are chapters scattered through books that are good and not so good.

    There are as many reasons to use a prologue as not – but the one reason a writer should not not use one is because some readers might skip them.

  • #654813

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    I like prologues from a stand point that they are not part of any future chapter. For instance James Rollins uses them where he give a history type prologue set several hundred years prior to the story. They are always enjoyable to read and gets you ready for the adventure he’s about to tell.

    I’ve never skipped a prologue in my life. I think that short changes the author. Instead of being critical about whether it needs to be there, I read it for the sake of enjoying the novel. I’ve never read a prologue and thought it shouldn’t be there, but then I’ve never read a self published novel, so maybe that’s why.

  • #654814

    AngelinaK52
    Participant

    ostarella wrote:
    > Yeah, being a writer, I, as a reader, trust the writer. If they put in a
    > prologue, I know it’s because they – and their agent and publisher –
    > thought it should be there. Some are good, some not so good – but then
    > there are chapters scattered through books that are good and not so good.
    >
    > There are as many reasons to use a prologue as not – but the one reason a
    > writer should not not use one is because some readers might skip them.

    I agree with all of this. 😀

  • #654815

    Anonymous

    Alice Holt wrote:
    > There are a hundred ways to organize a novel. I could call it Chapter One
    > and then go into flashback mode. But as it stands,the Prologue is a scene
    > that actually happens in the middle of the book when she finally realizes
    > how screwed up she is and needs to get help. The fifty pages is the set-up
    > for her new life straddling the military-civilian divide. It wasn’t boring
    > to write it, and not boring when I read it, and my trusted beta reader
    > loves it. She said she wanted to experience my character’s life before I
    > destroy it. I tried writing it backwards and then in alternating past and
    > present chapters. The straight narrative just seems to flow better.
    ===========

    We have a failure to communicate. Most folks think of a prologue as a short introductory background info dump before chapter one.

    Something in the middle is not a prologue to us. You either integrate that information into things or do a flashback or somesuch but it is not a prologue as most of us use that word.

  • #654816

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:
    > I’m one of the radical anti-prologue-ists. It’s based on my experience as
    > a reader. But I’m not the kind to say that what I believe is the only way.
    >
    > Here’s what I experience as a reader: A prologue is an artificial
    > construct. It’s trying to make me see something. But I want to discover
    > the story and the characters therein. I’ve yet to read a prologue that I
    > thought needed to be there. Yes, some have been well written, even
    > excellent. But I, personally, have always felt like the writer could not
    > trust me to follow the story.
    >
    > I acknowledge, however, that I am a minority in that attitude.
    ============

    Or the writer did not trust themselves enough to be able to write the story so you could follow it without the prologue.

  • #654817

    Anonymous

    T.A.Rodgers wrote:
    > I like prologues from a stand point that they are not part of any future
    > chapter. For instance James Rollins uses them where he give a history type
    > prologue set several hundred years prior to the story. They are always
    > enjoyable to read and gets you ready for the adventure he’s about to tell.
    >
    > I’ve never skipped a prologue in my life. I think that short changes the
    > author. Instead of being critical about whether it needs to be there, I
    > read it for the sake of enjoying the novel. I’ve never read a prologue and
    > thought it shouldn’t be there, but then I’ve never read a self published
    > novel, so maybe that’s why.
    =========

    Agree that would be a good use for a prologue. As to fiction, I have never read a book that had a prologue that I can recall. They all just got on with the story.

    And for non fiction I always skip all that extraneous stuff they put before the real book unless it is a textbook and I have to study it to pass an exam as some profs asked questions about all the filler in the front. For a technical book I often skip to specific chapters that are of interest.

  • #654818

    Anonymous

    Oh my. We are so passionate about prologues. What is it about them that generates such strong opinions? It must be because we have about one page to engage an agent and it had better be really good. I never read a prologue that got in the way of a good story.

  • #654819

    Anonymous

    I’ve attended two WD Writer’s Conference and sat in on a couple of agent sessions. The general consensus was for first time writer’s trying to publish, to leave prologues out. Mostly, because they found that new writer’s didn’t know how to properly handle them. A few of them said, ‘you can’t go wrong starting with Chapter 1.’

  • #654820

    Anonymous

    I think prologues are just like many aspects of writing – people have certain preferences, people have different experiences, others take what’s general advice for beginners and mistake it for a Rule, and unfortunately, some people treat their preferences and experiences as the Law of God. The first three can generally manage to have good discussions, even if they continue to disagree, but then the third one gets involved and it ends up with everybody drawing lines in the sand.

    I like having the discussions, even if some are age-old and never-ending, because at least that way writers, particularly new writers, get to see other opinions and ideas, and that’s never a bad thing. It brings home the point that there’s never any Right Way to do something unless it’s the right way for that writer and that story.

  • #654821

    jIPPity
    Participant

    Brien Sz wrote:
    > I’ve attended two WD Writer’s Conference and sat in on a couple of agent
    > sessions. The general consensus was for first time writer’s trying to
    > publish, to leave prologues out. Mostly, because they found that new
    > writer’s didn’t know how to properly handle them. A few of them said, ‘you
    > can’t go wrong starting with Chapter 1.’

    Sorry, but I don’t buy this. We may as well say that some new writers don’t know how to handle multiple points of view, so they should write the entire novel from only one POV (which would actually be much harder). Or some new writers don’t handle dialogue very well, so they should omit all dialogue from their novels. Or some have trouble with description, so they should never describe anything. Etc.

    To some degree it depends upon the genre. I read and write thrillers (including horror), and prologues are rampant in thrillers. In fact, I’m always surprised when I open a thriller and it *doesn’t* begin with a prologue. And I don’t mind reading prologues at all.

    I began my first novel with a two-page historical prologue, about something that happened 250 years before Chapter 1. My other novels I began with Chapter 1. So I don’t have an axe to grind about prologues. Some novels need them and some do not. But if one does, there is no need to avoid it out of fear that an agent or a reader will dislike it.

    –Warren

  • #654822

    Anonymous

    I’m not saying anything about preference to a style or presentation. I am simply repeating what I heard by ‘some’ agents. Is it universal? No. However, if an agent and their assistants have to digest hundreds of ‘first ten or twenty pages’ and bunches are possibly a prologue to start that find their way into the trash, then why add to the chance they dump it because it was a badly done attempt? I have nothing against prologues. I’ve written one as well. And, I am not saying that a new writer can’t handle a prologue. What I am saying, is that like in any other business, if you want to get your foot in the door, keep it simple – chapter one, appropriate word count to the genre, concise query, no – I’m the next Stephen King or 100 beta readers told me this is a best seller, And, if you can present your story with Chapter 1, then do so. If the story can’t go forward starting at Chapter 1, you wrote it wrong.

  • #654823

    Anonymous

    And, as our new administrator noted, Mr. Rollins writes historical prologues. I’ve read a couple of his works. However, if you skipped his prologue you would be no less the wiser for having done so.

  • #654824

    Anonymous

    wdarcy wrote:
    >
    > Sorry, but I don’t buy this. We may as well say that some new writers don’t know how
    > to handle multiple points of view, so they should write the entire novel from only
    > one POV (which would actually be much harder). Or some new writers don’t handle
    > dialogue very well, so they should omit all dialogue from their novels. Or some have
    > trouble with description, so they should never describe anything. Etc.
    >
    > To some degree it depends upon the genre. I read and write thrillers (including
    > horror), and prologues are rampant in thrillers. In fact, I’m always surprised when
    > I open a thriller and it *doesn’t* begin with a prologue. And I don’t mind reading
    > prologues at all.
    > –Warren
    Not the same principle.

    What is the most common factor in traffic accidents? Speed.

    That doesn’t mean that drivers don’t drive drunk, or cross the center divider, or run red lights.

    It means that it’s the more common factor in traffic collisions.

    Based on reading agent blogs, prologues have the same relationship with new writer publishing fails. There’s just so much of this experience out there.

    I won’t say don’t do it. I *will* say decide how important it is to use that particular piece of your work in that ever-critical submission.

  • #654825

    Anonymous

    A lot of agents advise against including the prologue in a query. Fair enough, I think. How many send the epilogue, after all? Agents want to get to the gist of the story, and they have limited time to do so. Does that mean don’t use one at all? Hardly. The main problem, from all I’ve read and seen, is that too many writers don’t understand the purpose of a prologue or how to write one well.

    One prologue that I always remember was all of 5 paragraphs long, and described the murder scene as it occurred some 25 years before the start of the main story, told from the POV of the murderer. Then the main story starts, and throughout one is looking at all the characters with “I wonder if that’s the one…”. The prologue was another tantalizing clue that the MCs (the investigators) were unaware of. But the reader was! Now, there were several parts in the main story that were totally off-base, unnecessary, even infodumps – all those things people hate in prologues – but that prologue stays in the back of the reader’s mind and that need to find out who the original murderer was and if s/he was actually involved in the current murders – that could not be denied.

    Sure, one could skip that prologue and still be enticed – but it added that extra delicious element that made the main story “more”. And it could not have been done by a flashback or salting the info into the main story. It had to be the first thing read.

  • #654826

    jIPPity
    Participant

    What Shadowwalker said.

    Sure, send your 10 or 20 or 50 pages to the agent starting with Chapter 1. Fine. But that doesn’t mean not using a prologue. The best prologues are those like SW mentioned: those that sort of cast their shadow over the rest of the novel.

    Of course, if you’re lucky enough to get a request for a full submission, then send the prologue along with the rest.

    There may be some agents who summarily dismiss a submission if it begins with a prologue. There are probably many more who dismiss it because of bad writing. And if the prologue is badly written, chances are the rest of the novel will be badly written as well.

    Again, in the thriller genre, there are probably more novels that begin with prologues than ones that do not. And in the horror subgenre a prologue is almost de rigueur–something happened a long time ago, and now the repercussions of that event are manifesting themselves.

    –Warren

  • #654827

    jIPPity
    Participant

    As an addendum: If we’re talking about first-time writers….

    Steve Berry’s first novel begins with a prologue.

    Steven James’s first novel begins with a prologue.

    Preston and Childs’s first novel begins with a prologue.

    F. Paul Wilson’s first novel begins with a prologue.

    Brian Freeman’s first novel begins with a prologue.

    I could go on and on, but perhaps the point has been made. These authors all had to get agents. And apparently their agents were not put off by their prologues.

    –Warren

  • #654828

    Anonymous

    deleted – my response. Not worth carrying on about it.

  • #654829

    Anonymous

    wdarcy wrote:
    > There may be some agents who summarily dismiss a submission if it begins
    > with a prologue. There are probably many more who dismiss it because of
    > bad writing. And if the prologue is badly written, chances are the rest of
    > the novel will be badly written as well.
    > –Warren
    I think you said something you didn’t intend to say.
    “There are probably…”
    You’re trying to refute something for which we only have anecdotal evidence. But those anecdotes are from the very people we want to accept our work for publication.

    So you can’t provide any evidence for how many prologue-included submissions were rejected (nor for how few). Nor for how many times the prologue was a factor in the rejection.

    And neither can I. That’s why I don’t argue to not do it. That also why I merely explain my own experience as a reader.

    There is no rule about writing (that I can think of) that does not have exceptions. But those exceptions do not invalidate the rule. At least, not necessarily.

    Know your market. Know the risks you take (or mitigate) with each decision you make. Understand when you might be placing additional hurdles in your way.

  • #654830

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:
    >
    > Know your market. Know the risks you take (or mitigate) with each decision you make.
    > Understand when you might be placing additional hurdles in your way.

    I’m not totally disagreeing with these statements. However… 😉

    The problem I see is talking about hurdles and risks specifically in relation to prologues. That implies that using one will add to the chances of rejection. Now, it’s already been noted that it’s probably not a good idea to include it in a query. But if an agent is interested enough in an ms to ask for a partial or even better – a full – what are, realistically, the chances they will toss it because of a well-written and interesting prologue (ie, as well-written and interesting as the main story)? What percentage of agents will actually do that? We only have anecdotal evidence – a handful of agents who hate them so much they actually say they will do that. And then consider procurement editors at publishing houses. They look at the sales potential – but they realize that no ms is perfect and that further editing will be done. How much time and effort is needed to read the prologue and say, “I don’t think this is needed.”? And finally, look at the number of books on the shelves that have prologues. Again, as noted, it’s almost a requirement in some genres, and certainly found in many.

    A prologue is a literary tool. Like any tool, an author needs to learn when and how to use it properly, not avoid using them at all.

  • #654831

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > RobTheThird wrote:
    > >
    > > Know your market. Know the risks you take (or mitigate) with each decision you
    > make.
    > > Understand when you might be placing additional hurdles in your way.
    >
    >
    > I’m not totally disagreeing with these statements. However… 😉
    >
    > The problem I see is talking about hurdles and risks specifically in relation to
    > prologues. That implies that using one will add to the chances of rejection. Now,
    > it’s already been noted that it’s probably not a good idea to include it in a query.
    > But if an agent is interested enough in an ms to ask for a partial or even better – a
    > full – what are, realistically, the chances they will toss it because of a
    > well-written and interesting prologue (ie, as well-written and interesting as the
    > main story)?

    Don’t ask me. I’m not an agent. Hell, I haven’t even successfully published. So ask the agents. Especially the successful ones. For instance, Janet Reid.

    http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/03/question-oft-maligned-prologue.html

    > I am fully settled in the I Hate Prologues camp too. I go so far as to NOT read them in a manuscript.
    >
    > My feeling is exactly as you’ve outlined above.
    Ah, but Mz Reid is not so easily catalogued. She goes on to state:

    > A query is not the full manuscript and it’s certainly NOT the finished book. Reading at the query stage is often skimming.
    > It’s NOT settling down on the couch with a cat and a cup of java for a nice read of an 800 page novel.

    I really like the above blog post, because it brings up another good point. The question to which she is responding states:

    > I have heard that some agents will go so far as to reject the submission as soon as they
    > see the word “prologue” on pg 1. I have also heard that a counter for this is to simply
    > title the prologue “Chapter 1” and re-number the rest of the chapters. This strikes me
    > as mildly deceptive since I fully intend for the prologue to be marketed as a prologue.

    Her response? Wonderful, IMO.

    > And you don’t actually have to put prologue you know. It’s Chapter 0. Or Chapter 1.
    > Don’t get all caught up in “this must be a prologue” cause as soon as you do the
    > editor at the publishing house is gonna say “hey, people don’t read prologues,
    > we always start with chapters” and that’s gonna be that.

    I would also ask, what’s deceptive about this? Do you really think “Chapter One” instead of “Prologue” is going to fool an experienced, well-regarded agent or editor, one who is good enough to be worthy of representing your work?

    KNOW.
    YOUR.
    MARKET.

    If you do that, you’ll know if said agent or editor loves, hates, or doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about prologues. And you’ll know when to provide it.

    It won’t matter what I as a reader say about it.

  • #654832

    jIPPity
    Participant

    There are clearly two issues here, and unfortunately they tend to become conflated.

    1. Should I write a prologue?

    2. Having written one, should I include it in an agent submission?

    Let’s deal with the second issue first.

    There appears to be anecdotal evidence that some agents hate prologues and will reject any submission that begins with one. As Rob says, this evidence is purely anecdotal. But on the off chance some agents do feel this way, I would agree with those who caution against including it. Nothing dishonest there, as it’s only a partial. But if a full is requested, it would be dishonest not to include one.

    Should you write a prologue? Depends upon whether you novel needs one. If it really, really does, then by all means go ahead and write one. Don’t be scared off by tales of agents who hate them and readers who skip them. I for one never skip a prologue, and if it’s well-written I enjoy reading it.

    The problem, as I see it, comes when “don’t submit a prologue to an agent” mutates into “don’t ever write a prologue.” Beginning writers might easily draw that conclusion.

    What Rob said about “know your market” is 100% true. And the market for thrillers is replete with prologues. They’re almost an integral part of the genre. And any agents who represents thrillers will know that.

  • #654833

    Anonymous

    RobTheThird wrote:

    > Don’t ask me. I’m not an agent. Hell, I haven’t even successfully published. So
    > ask the agents. Especially the successful ones. For instance, Janet Reid.
    >
    > http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2014/03/question-oft-maligned-prologue.html
    >
    > > I am fully settled in the I Hate Prologues camp too. I go so far as to NOT read
    > them in a manuscript.
    > >

    I follow Janet’s blog and she typically has good advice. But, y’know, when the agent comes out and says, point blank, I Hate Prologues – do you really think that agent is giving good, objective publishing advice? Frankly, I don’t think I’d waste my time submitting anything to an agent like that, because who knows what else they hate that they aren’t spewing about online?

    Yes, I agree – know your market. But know your book first. Know what it needs, what makes it good, what makes it better. Maybe you don’t get Janet Reid because it has a prologue – that doesn’t mean you’ll never get an agent for it, or never see it on the shelves. Just means that Janet Reid missed out a really great book. 😉

  • #654834

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > I follow Janet’s blog and she typically has good advice. But, y’know, when the agent
    > comes out and says, point blank, I Hate Prologues – do you really think that agent is
    > giving good, objective publishing advice? Frankly, I don’t think I’d waste my time
    > submitting anything to an agent like that, because who knows what else they hate that
    > they aren’t spewing about online?

    Do you really think there’s ANYTHING about publishing that’s based on objectivity? If it was so set in stone, why aren’t best sellers being pumped out like a burger at McDonald’s?

    There’s a saying I was taught in customer service training.

    > Do you want to be right, or do you want to satisfy the customer?

    Janet Reid is a successful agent.

    That doesn’t mean she’ll ever represent your work. For example, I don’t think she does fantasy or scifi, so she’ll never represent me.

    Nor does that success mean that she can’t be wrong.

    However, didn’t we agree previously that publishing is a business? As a business decision, do you exclude someone who clearly knows publishing because you want to include something she doesn’t appreciate? And why the broad speculation? What does it matter what she does or doesn’t like beyond prologues if this is a deal-breaker for you?

    I’m sorry, Ostarella, because this is going to sound harsh (to say the least), but to me that kind of speculation sounds like a need to demonize someone. Or a need to be right.

    Okay, Janet Reid is not for you. Why not leave it at that? It isn’t about right and wrong. JK Rowling was turned down by numerous agents after she wrote the first Harry Potter book. I haven’t relocated it, but I recall reading a blog by one of those agents after the fact. That agent doesn’t believe that they made a mistake. The agent said that he (I think it was) was not the right agent for the job. For him, it was a good call.

    She doesn’t have to be a bad person to be not right for you or your work.

  • #654835

    Anonymous

    I was not making a personal attack on Janet Reid, let alone demonizing her. I said I follow her blog and she generally has good advice. I did state that if an agent – ANY agent – had publicly stated they hated “A” and would automatically reject any ms that had “A”, then I would wonder what other prejudices they had that would cause them to pass on a book that could be very successful. An agent can be successful and still have passed up runaway best-sellers. It seems short-sighted and lacking in the kind of open mind that I would want to work with. Yes, publishing is a business – and for that reason, you don’t want to fixate on an agent when there’s a very good chance you won’t be able to work with them. I don’t want an agent that isn’t willing to look past their own personal prejudices. I’d rather work with one who sees the potential value of the work and knows which publishers would be interested in it. Deciding which agents to submit to is not only a matter of which ones handle your genre and their success rate – it’s also which ones seem best suited for a long-term relationship with you as an author.

    As to objectivity – why is that so impossible to imagine? Objectivity is giving advice based on facts, not conjecture or personal preferences. Objectivity is turning down good stories because there are so many slots open and a choice has to be made based on how successful book A could be compared to book B – and that choice is based not on “Oh, I like this character so much more than this other one”, but on what has sold and what is selling and what the market trends are and so many other objective criteria.

  • #654836

    Anonymous

    ostarella wrote:
    > I was not making a personal attack on Janet Reid, let alone demonizing her.

    Then why include anything not in evidence? How does this one preference say anything about anything else?

    > I said I follow her blog and she generally has good advice. I did state
    > that if an agent – ANY agent – had publicly stated they hated “A”
    > and would automatically reject any ms that had “A”, then I would
    > wonder what other prejudices they had that would cause them to pass on a
    > book that could be very successful.

    What would cause it? How about experience? You are turning this into something about her. That’s why it feels like demonization to me.

    > An agent can be successful and still
    > have passed up runaway best-sellers. It seems short-sighted and lacking in
    > the kind of open mind that I would want to work with. Yes, publishing is a
    > business – and for that reason, you don’t want to fixate on an agent when
    > there’s a very good chance you won’t be able to work with them.

    I found her statement to be open minded. Did she tell the other person to not do a prologue? I didn’t see that.

    Agents can be wrong. But so can writers. I don’t have to call a writer short-sighted to disagree with the use of prologues. I can simply agree to disagree.

    > I don’t
    > want an agent that isn’t willing to look past their own personal
    > prejudices.

    But you have no basis for thinking it’s a *personal* prejudice. As she said in the linked blog post, she has reasons, professional ones, for her stance.

    Of course, that doesn’t make her right. But it does show us that this is more than, “Prologues? Ick!”

    > I’d rather work with one who sees the potential value of the
    > work and knows which publishers would be interested in it.

    I think her track record shows this. That does not mean that she must be a match for you, because, as you say…

    > Deciding which
    > agents to submit to is not only a matter of which ones handle your genre
    > and their success rate – it’s also which ones seem best suited for a
    > long-term relationship with you as an author.

    Agreed.

    >
    > As to objectivity – why is that so impossible to imagine? Objectivity is
    > giving advice based on facts, not conjecture or personal preferences.
    > Objectivity is turning down good stories because there are so many slots
    > open and a choice has to be made based on how successful book A could be
    > compared to book B – and that choice is based not on “Oh, I like this
    > character so much more than this other one”, but on what has sold and
    > what is selling and what the market trends are and so many other objective
    > criteria.
    If finding a successful writing were solely a matter of fact and business analysis, I’d agree.

    But it’s not.

    There’s a lot of “gut feeling” involved in it. And the author-agent relationship matters as well. Maybe it’s a great book, but maybe not great *for that agent*.

    Agents pass on submissions for all manner of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the submission. Too many other works on their plate. Already other works in the same genre (so conflict of interest). No time to read the full that they may have previously requested. Take your pick.

    Like I said previously, Harry Potter was turned down multiple times, and I recall one agent who passed did not regret doing so, because that agent believed they could not have represented it as well as it deserved (still looking for a link to this).

    The decision to represent is a mix of subjective and objective factors.

    Don’t submit to an agent you don’t think you can work with. But that decision does not mean the author OR the agent are wrong.

  • #654837

    Anonymous

    Okay, last comment and then I’m done.

    I did not attack Janet Reid. I disagreed with her opinion and stated my opinion of ANY agent who has automatic disqualifiers which have nothing to do with the actual writing.

  • #654838

    clareantoinette
    Participant

    I just have to jump in here to say that Janet does NOT say prologues should never be used. She says she hates them and doesn’t read them in a manuscript, but she doesn’t say she doesn’t read the rest of the submission. Sure, she says leave the prologue out of the query if chapter one will make sense without it, but she specifically says “if.” She goes on to explain that reading a query is different than reading a book for pleasure, so that suggests she’s not saying prologues have no place in novels or that including one in your manuscript will ruin your chance at getting published. She’s simply explaining why, under most circumstances, it’s best to leave them out of queries.

    Honestly, I don’t care what agents are saying at workshops, I’m going to believe what I see with my own eyes, and what I see with my own eyes is agents make exceptions when the story and writing are awesome. I’ve never used a prologue in my own writing, but I know writers who have, and they still found agents. Good agents who helped them get book deals with “Big 5” publishers. So I’m not buying that prologues are forbidden in first novels. In fact, I’m here to declare there is no such law.

    I know one first time writer who got requests for the full from multiple agents within hours of submitting her manuscript, and there were offers of representation in her inbox the next morning. Not only requests for the full, but OFFERS OF REPRESENTATION. It seemed so extraordinary I thought she was being scammed until she sent me the pages and I saw for myself what got the agents so excited. The prologue was fantastic, and I do not believe her manuscript would have gotten so much attention without it. Yes, I know what happened to her is a rarity and not likely to happen to most writers, but it still suggests to me that while a majority of agents may not like prologues, not ALL agents delete the query unread when one is used.

    Another thing to remember is we don’t need ALL or MOST agents to love our work. We just need one agent. The right one for our book. If you use a prologue, then it seems reasonable that the right agent for your book is one who is okay with prologues.

  • #654839

    jIPPity
    Participant

    Thank you, Updog, for such a clear, level-headed, and in my opinion *absolutely correct* take on this subject.

    For what it’s worth, I read Shadowwalker’s posts and I cannot understand how anyone could interpret them as “demonizing” Janet Reid. That interpretation seems so off the wall I don’t know what to do with it.

    By the way, last July I actually met and chatted with Janet Reid at ThrillerFest. She read the query for the novel I was pitching and made valuable suggestions on how to make it stronger. She also read the first ten pages of my manuscript and pointed out things she thought could be improved. It was clear to me that she has very definite ideas on what should and should not occur in a manuscript. Probably most agents do. I rather doubt she would want to represent one of my novels. But my time with her was very productive, and I respect her greatly.

    –Warren

  • #654840

    debbieolch
    Participant

    deddmann_writing wrote:

    > We have a failure to communicate. Most folks think of a prologue as a short
    > introductory background info dump before chapter one.
    >
    > Something in the middle is not a prologue to us. You either integrate that
    > information into things or do a flashback or somesuch but it is not a prologue as
    > most of us use that word.

    you really shouldn’t speak for “most of us.” Mainly because you’re wrong, but also because it’s impossible to know what most of us think, unless you took a survey or something.

  • #654841

    Anonymous

    updog wrote:
    > I just have to jump in here to say that Janet does NOT say prologues should
    > never be used. She says she hates them and doesn’t read them in a
    > manuscript, but she doesn’t say she doesn’t read the rest of the
    > submission. Sure, she says leave the prologue out of the query if chapter
    > one will make sense without it, but she specifically says “if.”
    > She goes on to explain that reading a query is different than reading a
    > book for pleasure, so that suggests she’s not saying prologues have no
    > place in novels or that including one in your manuscript will ruin your
    > chance at getting published. She’s simply explaining why, under most
    > circumstances, it’s best to leave them out of queries.

    Agreed. That’s what I was saying, too.

  • #654842

    Anonymous

    Not to get all psychology, BUT, the “passion” toward for or against prologues kind of comes from cognitive dissonance. At one point we wanted to write a prologue, but convinced ourselves not to based off x, y, and z. However, because we “wanted” to write we, we have to convince ourselves why we didn’t write one. Thus, we rely heavily on those x, y, and z, and also become a little more harsh toward those who do write one.

    That said. I “personally” don’t write or read prologues. It has to do more with my investment. A prologue–just like beginning with a flashback, or even an action scene without letting us know “who” the MC is–requires us to develop a certain amount of pre-investment into the story. As someone with so much to do, and so many forms of media calling my name, I’m not invested in any story from the beginning. So a prologue is just demanding amount of attention and patience that I don’t really have haha.

    That said, if I came across a book with a super crazy interesting plot where the blurb and word of mouth makes me knock on Barnes and Noble’s door before the employees even get there to buy the book, then sure, I’ll read the prologue paha.

  • #654843

    Anonymous

    Aaarghh! Okay, I put myself out there, prologue and all, in Thrillers and Suspense.

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