Pub Rants

When Strong Writing Is Not Enough

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STATUS: Exciting news today. Just heard word that Ally Carter’s I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU has hit the #7 spot on the Barnes & Noble YA Hardcover Bestseller list and managed to grab the #27 spot on the entire Barnes & Noble Children’s Hardcover Bestseller list. This after being out on shelves for only 6 weeks!

What song is playing on the iPod right now? HOLD ME NOW by The Thompson Twins

I’ve been reading a lot of fulls lately and it occurred to me that there are a lot of strong writers out there—writers with enough talent to break into publishing but the current manuscripts I’m reviewing probably won’t be the ones to open the door.

I think writers assume that good writing is enough. Well, it’s not. You have to couple good writing with an original storyline—something that will stand out as fresh and original. A story never told in this way before (even if elements are similar to what is already out on the market).

And lately, I’ve been seeing great writing but the story is too familiar, and I pass (with a warm letter complimenting the talent and then an outline of why I decided not to offer representation.) I even called one of the writers because I wanted to explain to her in detail why I was passing so she wouldn’t make the same mistake for her next novel (because I want to see that next novel).

Let me give you an example.

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading three full paranormal novels featuring Vampires. All three were really well-written. Had interesting characters that were developed. And even had interesting twists to the Vampire plot to make it unique.

Sounds good, right? So what happened?

The scenes the writers chose to create (in order to unveil the plot) were almost identical in each novel. I literally could have taken scenes out of one novel and plopped it into another and it wouldn’t have impacted the story much. (Obviously the characters were different but I’m not kidding when I say the scenes mirrored each other).

These three writers did not know each other either. They weren’t sharing a critique group or anything like that. This was coincidental.

So, let me list some of the repetitive scenes I saw:

1. The backstory of how the vampire was made in the first place.

2. Opening scene where the two main protagonists (usually male and female) are enemies but somehow must break through the barrier to work together. This usually involves a violent, confrontational scene to jumpstart the narrative. This scene usually happens in a dark place.

3. The main protagonists are being chased or must travel in order to accomplish what must be done. This is usually done in a car and there are motel/hotel scenes.

4. A vampire sleeping scene (the how, what, where, when etc.)

5. Obligatory scene with main protagonist vampire and an elder of the race

The list could go on but this should give you an idea.

And the real culprit is a lack of world building. Writers aren’t choosing scenes that will build an original story and world—which is so necessary in the crowded Vampire market. How is your Vampire world different? Unique? What intriguing rules must they abide by? What are some mind-blowing scenes that could really tell an original story?

And let me reiterate, these writers all had talent. No question.

Which is why I tell writers to read as much as you can of what’s already out there—because you don’t have the advantage of seeing the hundreds of partials and fulls like we do.

You probably thought your novel was original. But your awesome writing might not be enough.

48 Responses

  1. lizzie26 said:

    Actually, a writer could just go on Amazon and find books similar. Then rewrite and revise and ask themselves “What if?” Or turn that ms. on its head and write it from a totally different perspective.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Dear Agent

    If you like the writing, why wouldn’t you sign the writer? Your approach is to represent a book, not the author. Why not represent the writer, who is capable of writing that book?

    I have had similar reactions from agents. “Your voice is lively and engaging.” “Your voice is quirky, and I like quirky.” “Your dialogue is excellent. Descriptions are vivid.” These agents ultimately said no for the same reason you are saying no to these authors. The story isn’t quite right. The agent who ultimately says yes to me first, and then tells me exactly what I need to do to sell my manuscript, will be the agent I want to impress, and work really hard for (and myself, of course ;o)

  3. 2readornot said:

    It is a challenge…I’ve seen nothing like the books I’m writing, but I don’t read hundreds of partials and fulls. I wonder what I’d learn if I did your job for just one week? Perhaps enough to write a truly original work, LOL!

  4. Amra Pajalic said:

    Anonymous-re-read the post. Kristin is outlining exactly why she won’t represent the book, because it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Furthermore, it’s not the agent’s job to tell you what book to write and how to structure it. She’s gone above and beyond by encouraging the writers she’s had to reject and trying to give them feedback that will better their writing in the future.

    Perhaps part of the reason you keep getting rejected is because you’re not taking on board the feedback that has been provided to you.

  5. Anonymous said:


    If you criticize me enough I’m sure Agent Nelson will want to sign you on for your genious.

    And why do you keep getting rejected?

    Anonymous, a professional writer in another genre

  6. joanr16 said:

    Anonymous wrote,

    Your approach is to represent a book…. Why not represent the writer, who is capable of writing that book?

    Umm, if the author hasn’t written a book that the agent thinks s/he can sell, there isn’t anything to represent.

    And as Amra Pajalic pointed out, a good agent isn’t going to do the author’s job and fix the story.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Ahhh … the catch-22 of writing for publication: make it unique, make it stand out, make it something we’ve never heard before …

    Errr — but don’t make it too unique, because then we’re left scratching our heads about whether it’s marketable — after all, publishers, bless their cold little dollar sign hearts, want what they KNOW sells.

    Trust me: I’m not complaining. This isn’t Mission Impossible; it’s just Mission Difficult.

    Thanks, Agent Kristin, for being an agent out there who’s actually looking for something fresh.

  8. Anonymous said:

    Jack Fool … writing well means that you should do ALL of writing well. And writing is more than stringing beautiful pearls of words together. It’s coming up with something fresh and new to begin with, a twist on the old.

    And that comes before the first line ever lights up your computer screen. That newness, that freshness, must come from your head, from reading what’s out there and thinking NOT: “Gee, I could write something like that,” but thinking INSTEAD: Gee, why didn’t they write it like this? What if …

    It’s eliminating predictability from your writing — that’s what keeps it fresh and original. If a beta reader can guess what the next plot point is as you write it, well, your MS will garner “not fresh enough” or “seen this before” or “not original.”

    You want to write so well that even a jaded, cynical overworked agent does a little gasp as she turns the page. “Gracious … I didn’t see THAT coming,” she’ll murmur.

    That’s what Miss Snark means by writing well.


  9. Ig said:

    Hey, Anonymous, Professional Writer in Another Genre,

    That comment was super-snotty and uncalled for. Now hang your head in red-faced shame as we revel in your misspelling of the word “genius”.

  10. Jack Fool said:

    So Agent Kristin doesn’t mean writing well when she says ‘strong writing’? Perhaps she means ‘flat characters’ or ‘boring exposition’ or ‘badly portrayed motivations’ or… just plain bad writing?

  11. Maprilynne said:

    *laugh* Yeah, except that Twilight does a ton of world building between those kinds of scenes and that is why those scenes are interesting. A story can’t live off action scenes. They are like the icing on the cake. But if there’s no cake underneath the icing, you just can’t eat it . . . silly metaphor, I know.:)

  12. kis said:


    Oh, I can eat the icing without the cake, all right. I just end up hungry with a headache.

  13. MTV said:

    To me there needs to be a balance between freshness and good writing. Even if the story idea is fresh, you can screw it up with predictable elements. Make it too fresh and too original and the pubs won’t see the dollars. It’s too risky for them. Of course at that point if you believe in the work dig deep and do it yourself. The one element I see in common is authors focus on satisfying the publishing houses, losing total sight of the fact that there are other ways to get a book to market. Hey, If you don’t believe in your work by being willing to shell out some bucks, why would a publisher. That’s the acid test. Would you put your money into it? Sadly, many are willing to write IF someone else foots the bill.

    I see both hollywood and the publishing industry shifting in the next few years when many independent movies and books make it big because of the risks their authors are willing to take.

    Perhaps even collections of brave entrepreneurs will launch awesome works that were “too” risky.

    Years ago, in this industry, agents and editors would take on people with talent. Now, there are a bizillion people writing and standing in line waiting for a nod. So the name of the game is hook up talent A with quality salable mss A to Publisher B. That simple. All they need to do is connect the dots. And, say what you will, Kristin is very good at what she does. She definitely didn’t get there by accident.

  14. Ashni said:

    MTV: Sadly, many are willing to write IF someone else foots the bill.

    Damn straight. Have you ever heard of Yog’s Law?

  15. Nonny said:

    It’s quite possible for a novel to be “well-written” and yet not enough for the agent to want to pick it up. It’s good, but it’s not good “enough” because the plot and elements are predictable.

    Writing is not all about the words on the page, though that’s certainly a key component. We, as writers, aren’t going to wow most readers with our brilliant sentences and lack of “had” or “was” — what catches the average reader is the *story.*

    At heart, writers need to be storytellers first and foremost, IMO.

    Or maybe I’ve just known too many writers who focused too much on writing “well” and not enough on telling a good story. *shrugs*

  16. Anonymous said:

    I shall hang my head in shame for all of about two seconds. Ya’ll are kissing KN’s butt. Ick.

    I’d post as myself except I’m not stupid.

    Anonymous, who tells it like it is

  17. Anonymous said:

    Oh, by the way, I’m willing to bet that KN has signed authors who have submitted stellar writing but less than perfect plot and ‘huh’ story components, and told them what she thinks is wrong with the story.

    After all, she’s not stupid and agents ARE opinionated.

    My question to Ms. Nelson stands. Why not sign the author if the writing is better than good?

    Anonymous, who defends the right of aspiring authors to make inquiries of blogging agents on their public rants even though it will generate defensive replies from industrial butt kissers.

  18. Catja (green_knight) said:

    I think it is here that personal feedback really comes into its own. When the writing is showing, ahem, lots of room for improvement, getting encouragement would be nice, but here, where the writing is good enough but the story is showing fundamental problems, a writer really needs to know that they’ve got _most_ of the ingredients, but they’re missing something that can be solved relatively easily.

    Well, not overnight, and not without doing a _complete_ rewrite of the current WIS, and not without reading a lot of other books to get an idea of where the bar hangs, but it’s a problem that, at the level these people are writing, sounds solveable, and it’s one of those meta-topics they probably never thought about.

    This is a very thought-provoking posts, there will be hundreds of writers rushing home as I write wondering whether _they_ are just as predictable.

    Would these be writers who get a ‘please send me your next work’ or even a ‘please send me a reworking of this one’ as a response?

  19. Jana DeLeon said:

    Actually, anon, I think you’re wrong. KN only signs writers with “high concept” ideas. There is simply no point in attempting to represent anything else in the single title market right now as it will not sell.

    Also, once you are a client, you pass your ideas through her first before you write proposals. And (although always very nice) she is brutal! It took me many, many ideas before I came up with one she felt was strong enough to sell.

    So the idea is everything in the beginning. Strong writing will not get you a single title sale and KN does not rep category.

  20. Patrick McNamara said:

    I think this is one of the critical issues that separates the intermediate writer from the professional, and something I think I’m still struggling with. It would seem to come down to storytelling. While an idea may be very original, it also needs to be expressed well. There’s a difference between “The vampire lay in his coffin” and “Alastair never felt completely at rest in his coffin.” The second version raises the readers curiosity. Of course once the story starts well it needs to keep up that pace. If the next line revealed that he was a vampire, it would kill the effect of the first line.

  21. farrout said:

    Ah boy, talk about your basic serendipidy. I just received one of those complimentary rejections not because of a rehashed story line, but because the beginning didn’t dance. (Yes, it stood to one side and observed :~)

    I treasure the above and other suggestions since they challenge me to become a better writer.

    Incidentally, I used the suggestion and recomposed the beginning of my book. Rock-n-roll, anyone?

  22. Ig said:

    And again, to the red-faced Anonymous,

    I wasn’t kissing anyone’s tush; I was mocking you. Which I will continue to do, you baboon. You infant. You pusillanimous turd.

  23. Bernita said:

    It’s structure really, is it not?
    I have a good concept twist. I think I write well, but until the ms makes the rounds, I will not know if I’ve brought the two together.

  24. lizzie26 said:

    It all comes down to this:

    Study the craft of writing.

    Make sure your book is different from others on the market. A different take on same ol’, same ol’.

    Write, revise, rewrite.

    Submit a short and compelling query to a few agents first. See the reaction, if any. Submit to five more agents.

    Every agent is different and knows what they’re looking for, just as you, the writer, can make your work different and outstanding.

  25. Diana Peterfreund said:

    My question to Ms. Nelson stands. Why not sign the author if the writing is better than good?

    Because she’s got no idea if the author’s skills at stringing sentences together will ever result in a fresh novel, well told. So far, it hasn’t. She’d like to hear from them when it does.

    Being a commercial fiction writer means working on an axis of good writing and good storytelling.

    “Writing well” as Miss Snark puts it means “writing this story in this format well.” It’s a warning against people who become obsesed with trends or formatting or whether or not they should parachute out of a plane onto the agent’s building with their submission. Don’t expand it to mean the be all and end all. “Writing (this story in this format) well.” Just because you’re a great writer doesn’t mean you can write novels. Maybe you’re an essayist or a songwriter or even a short story writer.

    It’s naive to think that an agent can just “tell you how to fix it” and it can be fixed. Sometimes a story offers nothing new, It’s just… broken. (In passing, I didn’t think much of Twilight.) I hear this a lot from writers who thinkt hat if the editor or agent just gave them enough guidance, they could do it. But why would they bother, instead of finding a writer who can do it without having her hand held every step of the way?

    Oh, and before my comments are dismissed by embittered anonymi as bootlicking, I’m not kissing KN’s butt. Why would I? I already have an agent. And I’m not afraid to sign my name.

    The anonymous posters who are, are perhaps even now on KN’s desk? Maybe you don’t want her as an agent, if you disagree with ehr views so much. because, as Jana said, she’s not afraid to reject proposals from her own clients.

    PS: Congrats to Ally!

  26. MTV said:

    Thanks, Jana – right-on!

    High concept is exactly right. Especially in this market. Look at the titles.

    In terms of the agenting business, sign the “hight concept” that you know you can sell and you now have income that allows you to stay in business while you sign the next “high concept” as you start to advise your client base.

    Jana also said – “no point in attempting to represent anything else in the single title market right now as it will not sell.”

    That was exactly my point in my earlier post. If your single title doesn’t fit the mold, and what you do have is time sensitive in anyway your choices become more limited.

    Or would you rather have a manuscript sitting on your rapidly out-dating hard drive or in a dusty drawer?

    I’m only suggesting other routes IF you have excellent feedback from reliable sources, not your mom or friends only. It’s got to be good. The issue being that it just is not down the “safe” road that the big houses are buying.

  27. Bruno said:

    My question is, if the majority of stuff on the shelves is agented (is it? ok, maybe that’s two questions) do we assume that other agents are also looking for “fresh”? Everytime I go shopping I’ll sit down to read the first couple of chapters (or read them online) to see if there is anything innovative or interesting in my preferred genre. So far, I haven’t found anything in the last year worth the price of the book. It’s the same schlock over and over. New authors, or established it doesn’t seem to matter. Heck, that’s part of why I started writing. I got fed up with the repetitiveness that I was finding on the shelves. And I can only assume that material was cleared by editor and agent alike ad nauseum. Sigh. Maybe, I’m just too picky.

  28. kis said:


    It’s good to be picky. I am as well. I love fantasy and sci-fi, but there are only a few writers out there I’ll spend money on. If I had more disposable income, that would change, but at the moment, with my budget, I just can’t afford to take a chance on something I’m not sure I’ll love. And there IS so much awful stuff out there.

    And Kristin passed on my partial, she didn’t say why, but I’ve already decided that the first thirty pages need to be addressed somehow–rewritten or pruned mercilessly. Rejection isn’t such a terrible thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn. I have had an agent pass on my full when I first started submitting a year ago–and she loved the writing. She told me what she thought I should change and invited me to submit again. That’s the kind of encouragement that keeps me going even now.

  29. Harry Connolly said:

    My question to Ms. Nelson stands. Why not sign the author if the writing is better than good?

    Because that’s still not good enough. I’m not sure why that’s so hard to grasp.

    Funny, because a number of other folks, like Miss Snark and that Tor editor, say ‘writing well’ is the key thing.

    As I remember the quote on Making Light, the point was that hardest thing for the publisher to find was a compelling story. TNH said they could help a writer with grammar issues, if the writer could give them a great story.

  30. Vivienne King said:

    you know this entry strikes me as particularly thought worthy because I do have an agent and I do have a unique enough plot. It doesn’t center around vampires, but it does center around a HUGE paranormal element and a huge world building theme.

    the editors we’ve submitted to have pretty much all rejected me for the same reason…they just don’t know how to market my ms. It’s almost too disimilar from what’s the norm.


    it’s really such a crap shoot. thankfully my agent isn’t ready to drop me and I absolutely love her. I’ll sale someday, I’m sure I will, but I’m also pretty sure the ms that got me my agent won’t be the one I sale to NY first. I think someday it will sale, but I think I might have to crack into the market with something a little more…normal. (for lack of a better word)

  31. Deb said:

    To answer (partially) a previous question: a lot of the stuff on the booksellers’ shelves was sold unagented. In romance, Harlequin doesn’t require an agent to submit. Of course, many other houses DO require an agent, and that naturally closes the door to people who are busier writing than agent-hunting.

    And the other posters above are right also: if you can’t tell a story well, it doesn’t matter a hill of beans if you can write well. They aren’t the same skill. Go ahead & post rebuttals on my blog (just tell the story), I don’t mind (G).


  32. pacatrue said:

    I was debating what it would be like if an agent did simply represent an author and not a book. Several thoughts came to mind. The first is that agents in fact do this. I have a feeling that J.K. Rowling’s agent, or staff of agents, will keep her on no matter what. They don’t need to see the next book. Rowling’s got representation, period. So agents rep successful authors all the time, even when they don’t know what the next book would be. Kristin, I’d love to read a rant sometime about the agent/client relationship after book one sells. I am getting a decent idea of what the agent does to sell a book the first time out. What is the continuing relationship like? How involved is an agent in suggesting the next ms?

    So why don’t agents do this with authors who have never sold? I think the main difference has to be that with a successful author the agent has a pretty good idea whether or not the author can produce more books she can sell. But with a first time author who has talent, she just doesn’t know if the author will ever produce anything marketable. As others have said, it is very possible to be a good writer and not be a good writer of publishable novels. This isn’t a knock on the writer’s talent. Saki was a short story writer and brilliant at it.

    What an agent brings to the table – the reason an author gives the agent money – is that the agent knows the market, how to sell, and who to sell to. That’s stuff most writers just don’t know. We need help. But an agent may or may not be a good writing coach. And when we ask an agent to rep an author who’s never sold anything, we are asking them to be a writing coach when they may or may not even be any good at it – and do it completely for free, since she’d obviously rather help us write well than, say, go to see a movie with her partner. An agent will do this if they have a really good shot at paying the bills later due to it, but if it’s a crap shoot….

  33. BadTux said:

    Numbers game, Paca. If you have someone who has proven capable of writing a sellable novel, said someone is worth a larger investment of your time than someone who has not similarly proven such a capability. That’s just economic reality — publishing is a business just like any other.

    It’s like any other kind of investment strategy. Those who are successful at investment learn to limit their exposure to risk and put their money where it’s most likely to get decent returns. Time = money. It’s always cool to put some money on that new startup that you’re sure is going to have a breakout real soon now… but you don’t bet the bank on it.


  34. Jack Fool said:

    You’re missing the point. It’s not writing well if it’s a bad story. Perhaps it shows competency with grammar. Or it shows a lyric use of language. Maybe the writer is well-practiced with cadence. Possibly a large vocabulary is at work. Certainly all the spelling and punctuation is in place. It might even be that the writer is well-versed in modern stylistic conventions regarding readability.

    ‘Good writing’ and ‘good story’ are shockingly vague terms for a bunch of writers (blog and novel) to use, especially when there’s so many specific things to talk about. Pacing. Scene structure. Tension. Integrated exposition. Description flow. Depth of setting. Characterization. And so on.

    ‘high concept’ is just a matter of pulling 3-5 phrases from a hat and standing on your head.

  35. Diana Peterfreund said:

    To answer (partially) a previous question: a lot of the stuff on the booksellers’ shelves was sold unagented. In romance, Harlequin doesn’t require an agent to submit. Of course, many other houses DO require an agent, and that naturally closes the door to people who are busier writing than agent-hunting.

    I don’t agree with this. Maybe some category novels, sure. What else? I’m hard pressed to think of an HQN, RDI, Luna, or MIRA author wihout an agent. And they are only one publisher. RH, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster — none accept unagented works. I don’t think Warner or Harper Collins does, either. Most books published by larger publishers — which account for most books you see on bookstore shelves, if not most books published, are agented.

    Obviously, the people in charge of agenting and publishing the works don’t think the books suck, and the poster does. everyone’s got an opinion.

    And as for people concentrating on getting an agent “rather than” writing — I disagree with that as well. You learn to write, you learn to write well, you hone your craft until your writing is sublime, and then you get an agent. Two different duties are part of the job description.

    If your book is good, finding an agent is pretty straightforward. I heard this advice myself early on in my career, and I didn’t believe anyone. thought there had to be a trick. Then I wrote a good book, and finding an agent became pretty straightforward. I don’t expect anyone to believe me though, just like I didn’t believe it when I heard it.

    It’s not an agent’s job to make you a professional-level writer.

  36. Diana Peterfreund said:

    I was debating what it would be like if an agent did simply represent an author and not a book.

    Pacatrue, I think you’re getting confused. There *are* agents who merely represent books, who have “book-to-book” contracts witht heir clients and every tiem the client writes a new book, it’s like querying all over again… but when an agent says they are representing “an author” or they are there for the the author’s career, it’s pretty much understood that the agent is representing that author’s BOOKS. There’s no point in taking them on while there is no book (or an explicit promise of a book) to represent. Agents just don’t sign people up without a book to sell (unless the person is a celebrity about to write a tell all, etc.)

    JK Rowling’s agent has books to represent on her behalf. It doesn’t matter if there are never any more, there are books, they are in print, they are selling enough to make it on the Times list every week, so there ARE books. Agents aren’t jus there to make the deal between the author and the publisher. They are there to serve as the intermediary between the two for the length of the contract. If there’s a problem with the cover, or the printing, or whatever, it’s the agent that goes to bat for you, as KN regularly shows here.

  37. Diana Castilleja said:

    I try to read as often as possible and found this post to be most enlightening. Several points were … debated and covered and it’s making me think.

    And it’s also making me want to continue to improve, because it really does paint the picture for an unagented writer.

  38. Simon Haynes said:

    “I’ll sale someday, I’m sure I will, but I’m also pretty sure the ms that got me my agent won’t be the one I sale to NY first.”


    Verification ‘eoysbfuq’ which is what they feel like right now.

  39. Carradee said:

    “These all sound like scenes from ‘Twilight’ – maybe the writers were influenced one way or another?”

    I was thinking more along the lines of Underworld, but I notice now that Twilight works, too. (Speaking of Twilight, I’m quite fond of that book. I usually can’t stand such sickeningly sugary romance, but I loved the wall flower with enough sense to laugh at herself when she realized she was getting infatuation-loopy.)

    Okaaaay, that “infatuation-loopy” was an odd word construction even for me. I must be tired.

    And yes, I’m commenting on a rather dated post. Eh, well.

    Back on-topic: I’ve been thinking about the “strong writing” thing lately, myself, wondering if my current novel is worth it or if I should scrap it and turn to another idea.

    As a question (though I realize you may not see this), how seriously should I take friends’ encouragement on a story, when those friends willingly tell me to my face when they dislike things about my story ideas, plots, characters, et cetera?

  40. Bill in Detroit said:

    Ms Peterfreund, “Most books published by larger publishers — which account for most books you see on bookstore shelves, if not most books published, are agented.”

    Which means, if I retain my understanding of English, that the majority of books published by smaller houses and many books published by the larger ones, came to be on the shelves without the services of an agent.

    It follows then (“as night the day”) that “no un-agented books accepted” is a falsehood. Obviously, given the sheer volume of new titles each month, a LOT of un-agented work IS being accepted, paid for and published.

    I just spent a rather enchanting week on Dean Wesley Smiths blog (DAGS). You might be interested in his series on the sacred cows of publishing. Two seem to be a recurring theme here. The first is that authors who HIRE agents somehow become their servants. They do not; they become their employers. The agent is hired to represent the authors interests in the sale of one or more rights attendant to one or more books. Authors should not be using agents as beta readers. Agents should be sell, sell, selling, not critiquing.

    If an author sends you junk, send it back with a note saying “This is junk. I can get you eight cents a pound.”

    That’s because it’s your job to sell books and that’s the going price for scrap paper.

    More than that should, by previous agreement, be billed separately, since the writer is using you as a beta reader and the publishing house is using you to sift through the slush pile.

  41. Karen lee Hallam said:

    What about an agent saying they read the query and synopsis with interest. And you “know your way around a setting about which you write, unfortunately did not find (first ten pages) writing as strong as hoped” ouch. That hurt.