Editor's note: I am declaring November 2010 to be "Agent Guest Column Month," and therefore, every weekday, I will be posting a guest column by a literary agent. Day 6: Today's guest agent is Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary.
As an agent, one of the responsibilities I have to my clients is to assist them with making healthy and successful choices about their writing careers. In essence, we want to do all in our power to make sure they are doing what it takes to enhance their careers and avoid that infamous “career suicide” by writing something there can be no recovery from. Beginning writers can do the same thing, even before they have signed a contract with an editor or an agent.
This guest column by agent
Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary.
One of the biggest flaws I see in many submissions that cross my desk come from authors clearly writing out of their comfort zones. While this may be a great activity to practice your craft, it is certainly not the best way to land that contract, or even if you do, to maintain that voice. Simply put, too often writers are writing and submitting projects because it is “what’s hot right now” because of what they see on the shelves or what they have read on the loops.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It is important to insure that your writing is timely and you are tapping into current interests and styles, but when it comes to genre and story selection, writers have to return to that saying, write what you know!
Let me try to explain it this way. Lately, I have had a huge influx of writers submitting Young Adult stories (I should note that about 12-24 months ago, it was all romantic suspense). Although writing YA is not a major issue, what has become very clear is that the writers submitting projects really had no idea what went into a successful YA. For many, I seriously doubt they have been around this youth population for a long time. Their only insight seemed to come from the media, television or movies. In fact, my bet is that they simply hadn’t read any YA’s. This lack of market research was clearly seen in the quality of the writing.
To be successful, all of my writers at Greyhaus Literary Agency write what they know. We go back to the genres they have read, that they have a connection with and work from that. The reason is simple. Each genre has specific nuances that set it apart from the other genres. It isn’t simply the topic or the plot, it is the voice and style. Science Fiction is more than stories set on distant planet with X-223G Blasters. Regencies are more than ladies participating in their first Season and guys saying “La!” And certainly, YA’s are more than girls texting to each other, shopping and partying.
If you want to be successful, you need to write what you know. If you want to shift to a different genre, research first. Read, read, and read. Learn the unique style and voice. Let it become part of your writing so it doesn’t sound forced. You might find the number of rejections will decrease significantly.
Writing romance? Check out the
excellent resource, On Writing Romance
by Leigh Michaels.