Agent Irene Goodman On: Common Submission Mistakes - Writer's Digest

Agent Irene Goodman On: Common Submission Mistakes

1. They try to throw too much into the story, thinking it will appeal to more people that way...
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Irene Goodman has been a top agent for more than 30 years, with many NY Times bestsellers. She offers manuscript critiques on eBay every month, starting on the first day of each month, with all proceeds going to charity. Go to irenegoodman.com for more details on her charity auctions.

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What are the most common mistakes
you see writers make in their submissions?


I've been doing a lot of partial manuscript critiques every month on eBay (all proceeds go to charity), and I'm noticing certain patterns that have emerged. A lot of good writers with the best of intentions make the same three crucial errors:

  1. They try to throw too much into the story, thinking it will appeal to more people that way. The opposite is true. I ask them to identify where in the bookstore this book will be shelved. If they can't answer promptly, they've made a mistake. You can't write a mystery/romance/thriller/adventure/soap opera with a dash of science fiction. Simple is better.

  2. They write a thriller that's not--well, thrilling. It may be interesting and well written, but if it's not scary, it doesn't have suspense, there is nothing big at stake, or there isn't much action, it's not much of a thriller.
  3. They pick subjects that are just not commercial. Don't spend three years of your life writing a novel about King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden or a romance novel set in Germany in 1943. Learn what's commercial and what is not.


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