Share
Tweet
Forward
Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.
February 2017
A Message from Kristin Nelson

9 Story Openings to Avoid, Part 6

Kristin Nelson

By Kristin Nelson & Angie Hodapp

For Part 1 and the genesis of this series, click here.
For Part 2, click here.
For Part 3, click here.
For Part 4, click here.
For Part 5, click here

Your opening pages might be in trouble if…

#6) Your novel opens with prose problems, such as flowery or overly descriptive verbiage.

This morning, while sipping my steaming hot and deliciously aromatic Mountain chai with creamy half and half and gazing out my window at the cerulean sky, I pondered on the inevitable curiosity borne of dissecting why working authors succumb to the passion of crafting overwrought prose.

Did you have trouble reading the above sentence? Did you read it twice to figure out what I was talking about? Did you wonder why I didn’t just say, “This morning, I thought about why writers use overly descriptive language”?

If you answered yes to any of the above, then you know exactly why overwrought prose makes our list of openings to avoid.

So often we come across submissions in which writers are trying to play with language, but they’re often playing with it at the wrong time. If you just need to convey that a character smiled, then “He smiled” is far preferable to “His lips quirked up at the corners, his sudden smile lighting up his face in such a way that I knew he was happy” is overdone. But newer writers, still mastering craft, often make the mistake of using fancy words and “phrasey” sentence structure all throughout their work…and this slows a story down rather than moving it along.

He smiled.

Done.

The point is the smile, not how the character did it.

Expansion and Contraction

One thing to keep in mind as you revise your own writing is the concept of expansion and contraction. Bestselling writers know when to expand their prose and when to contract it. They expand when they want to slow readers down to ensure they take notice of something important to the development of character or plot. They contract when they need to keep things snappy and simple to keep readers interested as the story moves over points of low conflict or tension, or transitions from one turning point to the next.

Newer writers, on the other hand, tend to expand a little too much—a big reason such writers wrestle with high word counts. Learn (a) that contraction is a tool in your toolbox and (b) when you need to use it, and you’ll be well on your way!

So is there a time or a place for more elevated prose? Absolutely. But save it for scenes in which you need a certain type of prose to set a certain type of tone. Save it for a moment of gravity, to let the words shine.

Pub Rants University

Opening Pages that Lead to Yes! 2017-02-23

A Three-Session Workshop with Angie Hodapp

Thursday, February 23 at 6:00-8:00 PM MT

This Webinar intensive is brought to you by NLA Digital.

Previous attendees of this Webinar have this to say about its impact:

“I found the opportunity to get fresh eyes on my work and have a professional opinion invaluable. Angie did a great job leading the Webinar and set the tone for the class being fun and useful. Having Kristin come in at the end made us work harder.” —S. S.

“This was an incredibly useful seminar for any querying writer. For me, figuring out what to focus on in the opening of a novel is very difficult. This Webinar helped my really focus on my opening and provided isolated feedback on what worked and what didn’t.” —M. C.

Sessions: 3 consecutive Thursdays (February 23, March 2, and March 9, 2017)

Duration of each session: 2 hours

Total contact time: 6 hours plus homework

Requirement: Attendees must use a phone for audio to call in and actively participate.

Class Limit: 12

Please note:

  1. This Webinar is a workshop and does not constitute a submission to NLA.
  2. Only fiction submissions are eligible for this Webinar. No memoirs or non-fiction works, please.
  3. Register early, as all attendees will have an assignment to do in preparation for the first session. Registered attendees will receive the assignment Thursday, January 26, 2017. Those who register after that date will receive the assignment as soon as they register. Registration will close (and a waitlist will open) as soon as all 12 spots are filled.

Workshop Description:

If your query letter or in-person pitch got you a request for sample pages, but your sample pages didn’t get you a request for a full manuscript, what went wrong? In this hands-on workshop led by Angie Hodapp, you’ll explore what agents are looking for in opening pages and learn ways to craft evocative beginnings that get your full manuscript read.

Each attendee must submit the first five pages of his or her novel and will be expected to actively workshop other attendees’ opening pages within the provided workshopping guidelines. We’ll discuss our works-in-progress and help each other brainstorm various possible entry points in relation to each work’s overall story structure. During the last session, March 9, Agent Kristin will join us to do a live, blind read on several revised opening pages. Join us and learn how to turn those sample requests into requests for full manuscripts!

What You’ll Learn:

  • The importance of establishing character, setting, and voice on page one.
  • How the opening image or scene should relate to a story’s overall structure.
  • How to introduce story questions that entice rather than confuse the reader.
  • How to avoid cliched openings.
  • What starting in medias res really means—and, more importantly, what it doesn’t.

Extras:

  • Angie will be on video as well as audio.
  • Attendees are welcome to ask questions throughout the Webinar.
  • Attendees will have access to the video recording of the Webinar for six months.

Angie Hodapp holds a BA in English education and an MA in English and communication development. A graduate of the Denver Publishing Institute, she has worked in professional writing and editing for sixteen years, the last six of which have been spent at Nelson Literary Agency. She teaches workshops at writing conferences and loves working with writers who are looking to hone their craft and get their work ready for publication.

Register Now
Recent News
Think Like an Agent

What should you do if your books are popular in Iran?

By

The short answer is nothing. There actually isn’t much you can do.

Rarely discussed in publishing is the fact that certain countries don’t recognize or honor copyright law. Persian countries (including Iran and Iraq) are an excellent example of territories that don’t. Persian publishers will often translate popular novels and publish them in their countries without a license, and the author does not receive a dime as an advance or royalties.

Kind of shocking, isn’t it?

This situation has happened a number of times for my authors. We usually find out about unlicensed editions when an author receives fan mail or a lovely note from the translator. Even though the Persian publishers don’t feel much obligation to the author, we have found over the years that the translators actually do. And often they will reach out to the author and ask permission to do the translation—even though they know (and are quite apologetic) that the publisher has no plans to compensate the author in any way.

I have a special place in my heart for these morally centered translators.

So can an author do when it becomes apparent that his or her books are being translated and published in countries that don’t honor copyright protection?

My answer is this. The author should offer to write a special foreword for the edition in exchange for a nominal fee. It’s my attempt to get the author at least some compensation. Yet so far no Iranian publisher has taken me up on this offer.

But I’m hopeful. Someday…

Kristin's Book Club

Required Reading?

Under the current administration, the U.S. is divided over politics, religion, and race. When people think of those unlike themselves as “other,” then division, not unity, is the outcome. In everyday life, plenty of folks don’t regularly interact with people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, or ethnic identities. So it’s hard to see an “other” as a person just like you and me.

That is the bridge Coates attempts to build. He writes a window into the world of being an African American man, with all the history that entails, in a letter to his young son in BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME.

Verdict: As readers, it’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s part of being curious about experiences and lives different from our own. There is value in peering through a different lens. Acknowledge where we may have been part of the problem. Discuss topics on which me might not agree. For us, this book opened up a new conversation and possibly a new way of being in the world. It’s what book club is all about.

Next up for book club is Donna Tart’s novel THE GOLDFINCH.

New Releases

Long May She Reign

by Rhiannon Thomas

Freya was never meant to be queen. Twenty-third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of the court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly and the king and those closest to him are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

She may have escaped the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, she knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom—and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisers. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

Buy It Here:

       

Among the Ruins

by Ausma Zehanat Khan

On leave from Canada’s Community Policing department, Esa Khattak is traveling in Iran, reconnecting with his cultural heritage and seeking peace in the country’s beautiful mosques and gardens. But Khattak’s supposed break from work is cut short when he’s approached by a Canadian government agent in Iran, asking him to look into the death of renowned Canadian-Iranian filmmaker Zahra Sobhani. Zahra was murdered at Iran’s notorious Evin prison, where she’d been seeking the release of a well-known political prisoner. Khattak quickly finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the regime, but when the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls on his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help.

Rachel uncovers a conspiracy linked to the Shah of Iran and the decades-old murders of a group of Iran’s most famous dissidents. Historic letters, a connection to the Royal Ontario Museum, and a smuggling operation on the Caspian Sea are just some of the threads Rachel and Khattak begin unraveling, while the list of suspects stretches from Tehran to Toronto. But as Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been a political crime at all.

Buy It Here:

       
Blog Posts from Pub Rants
Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.
*|IFNOT:ARCHIVE_PAGE|* *|LIST:DESCRIPTION|*
Our mailing address is:
*|HTML:LIST_ADDRESS_HTML|**|END:IF|*
*|IF:REWARDS|* *|REWARDS|* *|END:IF|*