It’s time to move to the “why I liked my authors’ writing” segment. This is the BEST part of the agenting process, reading a potential project that brings an excitement and enthusiasm. This segment is all about the writer’s voice, and ability to keep the agent’s interest.
First and foremost, it’s the story that needs to grab my attention. By this point, the book idea survived the initial round of the query process; now it’s time to see if the writer can present the idea successfully within the chapters. No matter what the topic or storyline, every writer should strive to get the agent excited about the material being presented. If I lose interest within the first few pages of the writing sample, the project will definitely be turned down. Moral of the story: Keep the material engaging and interesting from the first page.
The next (and most important) step is the writer’s voice. Now that you’ve gotten an agent’s attention, and there is an interest in the project, the only way to keep pace moving forward (toward representation) is by providing a strong narrative. If the writing voice is strong, there’s a good chance I personally will lose track of time, as I’m enjoying the “read.” For any writer hoping to attain an agent, this should be your goal.
One of my authors once told me he reads his chapters aloud as part of the writing process. As a result, his writing voice is dead on. Hence, time seems “to fly” when I read his work. Obviously this is only one approach; the lesson here is that he gained my attention by being extremely thorough and prepared before sending out his query. Moral of the story: Fine tune your writing to its fullest strength before beginning the query process.
Last but not least, look at the conclusion of the story. If you’ve managed to gain an agent’s attention, the book needs to end as good as it started. In fiction, it’s evident when a writer isn’t able to bring the narrative to a conclusion; where the story seems to have jumped off a figurative cliff, thereby leaving a lack of finality to the overall storyline. In nonfiction, the chapter outline needs to reflect a successful closing to the discussion of the book’s topic. Much like seeing a bad movie ending, where the movie patrons feel they’ve lost a hunk of their precious time, this same feeling needs to be avoided during the reading experience. Moral of the story: Put the same work into the conclusion of your writing (as the beginning), to ensure the agent walks away with the same excitement initially experienced.
Of course, every agent brings his/her own reading preferences to the overall query process. What one agent doesn’t like = a project a different agent would LOVE to represent. That’s the beauty of the publishing industry, there are many ideas and perspectives, and folks who will happily work with them. This is why I love my job. 🙂