|The day our first baby together arrived!|
We have a second baby coming March 2018!!!
Nope, I'm not kidding!
I asked her if she'd answer these three simple questions:
1. What grabs you in the beginning of a manuscript?
2. What keeps you reading?
3. And, um, would you give my nine zillion campers feedback on their beginnings?
(Okay, I may have slipped that last one in when she wasn't fully listening. . . but she agreed!!! And she's here to do just that!)
Because she's busy and spends her life reading submissions, I do want to make it as simple and easy for her to be here -- after all, Friday Feedback can be a bit of a frenzy, albeit the best kind of wonderful frenzy.
So I'm simplifying the rules, and twisting them a bit today:
- Please only submit the opening 3 - 5 paragraphs of your manuscript, or story. If you submit more, I have told her to only focus on the first 3 - 5;
- Rather than our usual format of "what works, what doesn't, and would you keep reading?", Vicki will simply share with you what pops out at her -- her quick first impression: essentially what she sees in your writing, or feels as she is reading.
- I will only likely chime in on the excerpts she cannot get to if she cannot get to them all, because who wants to hear from me when you have her?!
- FYI, she will be limited in how much she is able to respond to TODAY, but will be reading excerpts through the weekend. Having said that, please don't post new excerpts past Friday night. She will do her best to get to at least the first 50 excerpts between today and Sunday.
Pretty freaking amazing, right?
So, without further ado, here's Vicki with some absolute gems about what she is looking for when she opens a manuscript and begins to read that first chapter:
What I want to see in a first chapter:
- A strong depiction of a main character. I want to know exactly who that character or what we might find out later by even the smallest of details… the crooked way his tie hangs, or the brief hesitation when she answers a call from someone. Your characters should be three-dimensional right from the beginning.
- A propulsive first scene not bogged down by too much exposition/internal dialogue. Show us who your character is and what world we are in, don’t tell me. Let me learn about it and make connections for myself.
- Tight writing. Don’t be flowery for the sake of being flowery. And don’t tell me every little action the character makes. I don’t need to know “she lifted her hand to the cabinet to open the door to take out the mug for her tea.” I just need to know she took out a mug.
- No tricks. Those first few paragraphs tell a reader exactly what they are getting into. So, unless it is pivotal to the plot, I don’t want to see any tricks. If your manuscript is a young adult romance, it shouldn’t read like a thriller.
- A willingness to be bold, to be different. There are a ton of books out there, more than ever before, don’t be afraid to write a book that will stand out from the pack. Don’t write something because you think it’s popular, write the story that only you can tell.
So, there you have it. No excerpt from me today. Just you, the comment box, and a real opportunity to be brave.
xox gae & Vicki
xox gae & Vicki
---Vicki Lame is an editor at St. Martin’s Press and Books. Titles include, Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech by Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo, and The Memory of Things by award-winning author Gae Polisner. She is lucky to be able to work across age groups and genres, acquiring upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction as well as select non-fiction and a variety of young adult titles. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her highly Instagrammable cat, Troy.