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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Industry Advice~What To Take

With all the conflicting advice in the industry it can be hard to figure out which advice to take and which to leave. If that advice comes from professionals that you respect then it becomes even harder. I've been to a lot of conferences, workshops, and retreats and  often the information that comes out of it can be overwhelming. Agents and editors are often looking for different things and they all like slightly different styles. Like you and I, they are individuals.

"Hold the presses Heather! You mean to say the Gatekeepers are human?!"
"Yep, that is precisely what I mean."

I've had agents tell me they didn't like my beginning because it was a prologue. Several have told me don't use prologues, they are awful, no one likes them, people skip them...and all manner of negative feedback on the subject. On the other hand, I've had agents who loved the prologue beginning of my novel and felt it set exactly the right tone. When something like that happens (and there is still no offer) what do you do? There is only one thing you can do. You must stay true to your vision for your novel.

Good advice is that which will improve your novel but not alter it into something unrecognizable. Of course advice on grammar, structure, and spelling is always good. When it comes to character, plot, and story structure that is where things get sticky. A good rule is to follow the advice of those who either love your story idea or are vested in it, such as a signed agent (or one with the potential to sign who has asked for a rewrite), your critique partners, or beta readers (so long as they are the constructive kind).

30 comments:

  1. Awesome advice!! It's tough when you hear so many different opinions. The first bit of feedback I got from an editor I asked my agent should I try to change it to fix what they'd found wrong? His answer was that I'd drive myself crazy if I tried to respond to EVERYTHING. That we should wait, go through what we hear, and then make a more educated decision. Gosh I love that guy! :D

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  2. I agree. There is SO much conflicting advice out there, you have to trust your gut.

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  3. Last year I had several agents respond to a partial I'd sent. They were all totally different in their advice to me. As a friend said, if it's all different, leave it alone. However, if two or three different people say the same thing, then you have to look at changing it.

    Subjective business, very subjective.

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  4. Lisa, thanks, it is tough! That sounds like great advice from a great guy!

    Candyland, the gut is the only way to go. ;)

    Anne, boy do I know that feeling! Sage advice my friend, sage advice.

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  5. It can be so tricky! I believe because it's because reading/writing is sooo subjective.

    For instance, I've had agents tell me to just get right to it in the first paragraph then other agents tell me to slow down and identify the character.

    It can drive you a little batty. LOL.

    The best way is to go with your gut. It's your story...

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  6. LOL, I was just talking about this with my CP--she has just got conflicting advice. I think that in the end you have to follow your gut, right?

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  7. Wonderful advice, Heather! I agree, in the end it's your story. No one will ever write it the way you would. Fighting to keep my voice in my story is the toughest lesson I've learned so far.

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  8. Great post! I've had the same issue: conflicting feedback from agents and worshop critiquers in regard to my prologue. Some hated the prologue on principle; others liked it. I wound up keeping a shortened version of it. So, I totally agree with you about going with your gut, especially if the advice you receive is contradictory.

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  9. Karen, that's so funny (sad, confusing), I've had the exact same advice! LOL! So true, the gut is the only way to go in the end.

    Monica, wow, sad how often it happens. You are so right!

    Melissa, well said, keeping your voice is the most important thing to consider.

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  10. Great advice! It can be hard to figure out what to listen to and what to discard. In the end, you have to stay true to your novel and what you believe.

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  11. Lin, I had the same problem! I'm so glad to hear that you went with your gut in the end.

    Tina, well said. It's all about staying true!

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  12. I totally agree with this. I've gotten such conflicting advice over the year. You have to take it all with a grain of salt because the advice is based on subjective preferences.

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  13. You're very right... they always say to take everything with a grain of salt.. at the end of the day, you just need to go with your gut instinct :)

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  14. So true! Agents have tastes just like we do. During a live chat, two agents talked about beginnings. One preferred to be dropped right into the action while the other preferred a slow build! At least now I know which one would like mine ; )

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  15. Natalie, so true. I keep a salt shaker handy. ;)

    Writing Nut, great minds think alike!

    Eliza, great example! Both of the differing opinions and the reasons to join in on live chats!

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  16. Great advice, Heather. Sometimes you can get so much conflicting advice, it can really addle your brain!

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  17. Excellent thoughts, Heather! If we're lucky enough to get the SAME advice from two or three people we respect, then we've really got something to work with.

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  18. Talli, no kidding! I've been addled more than once. ;)

    Linda, yes! We should be so lucky! ;)

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  19. yes! one could write round and round in circles trying to please EVERYONE! great advice. christy

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  20. I think that's really true of any sort of criticism, whether it be professional, by a reader on wattpad, or from a friend. In the end its really up to you to decide if you want to accept it. I often find it troubling when I'm given two completely different suggestions just like you did. Sigh... It can be so confusing sometimes.

    Great post by the way! I love your blog :)

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  21. I find this issue incredibly frustrating too. It's important to trust your gut, but also hard when professionals are saying the opposite...or not!
    Bleah.

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  22. That's something I've struggled with. What's good advice to take and what is not and from whom? I've been told not to query my prologue as my sample or 1st 5 pages, but others tell me that I should. I think it's best for you to do what is best for your MS.

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  23. Christy, one can get dizzy, so true! LOL!

    Janine, it is very confusing, so true! Thanks for stopping by by the way. Great to have you here. :)

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  24. Lydia, exactly! It's not easy to go against what a trusted pro tells us.

    Eleni, me too! And I couldn't agree with you more, what is best for our MS should always be the bottom line.

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  25. I agree!

    I also have a prologue that a few people have told me to give the ax to. But I just haven't found it in my heart to do it. Like you, I felt as though it set the correct tone for my story. In addition, people who were excited about my novel really liked it (the negative comments were coming from some goobers that didn't even like YA). So as of today, my dear prologue remains, and your opinion on the matter gives me sweet validation to keep it right where it is!

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  26. This is such great advice, Heather.

    I agree with you we must believe in our writing. But good advice does go a long way.

    My first novel's first five pages have a prologueish feel, but I believe it needs to be part of the first chapter. So that is where it stands now ...

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  27. Julie, good for you for sticking to your guns!

    Michael, you too! If it feels right, chances are it is right!

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  28. I can definitely relate. I've received feedback that I agree with. But I also received feedback from a new agent who happens to be a unagented writer. Her suggestion conflicted with a friend of mine's who is an agented writer and who is close to landing a book contract. So who do I believe? Do I keep the subplot, which my friend felt gave my character dimension, or delete it? ;)

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  29. Stina, I say if the sub-plot is necessary to the story or character in some way then keep it! When in doubt keep it and if someone wants to offer representation then you can hash it out.

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  30. Yeah, um, where does all this hate for a Prologue come from? I get so frustrated sometimes because I'm WITH my target audience all the time - and there seems to be a BIG disconnect sometimes from what THE INDUSTRY is telling writers and what the YOUNG ADULT AUDIENCE actually thinks of books!! I've never once had a kid tell me, "I hate prologues" or even skip them. What?! I think SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE decided they just wanted them out of popularity - kind of like the mean girl bent on destroying somebody for the sheer fun of it. Hahaha. Anyway... that's my rant. And that being said, I've officially let my prologue go in the first book because THE INDUSTRY is telling me to... :-O THE MEAN GIRL WINS!! Hahaha.

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