Do you tend to compare published work (which breaks the rules) with your own submitted work?

I have this nagging question that continues to bug me.


With my own work, that I submit, I am constantly revising the first several pages of the work  to make sure it GRABS the agent (or publisher) so that I have "a chance in hell" (LOL)


But you know....I, like many of you, always read other work to keep up with whats out there and ...

it sure seems strange to me that publishers like to break their own rules when it comes to printing work that breaks the rules that I, the hopeful author, feel compelled to follow.


I was reading one thriller (won't mention who) and it took this writer at LEAST 50 pages to get me really into the book. I sat there thinking, you know, I could have cut 25 pages from this and gotten the reader's interest much sooner.


And yes, I know the ones who are allowed to break the rules are given a bit of elbow room with the rules, because, of course, they have a fan base and people BUY their books. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" rules. And i accept that. To a point.


 But I read many genres besides just thriller crime books. I also try to read as many first time authors (and again- of many other genres) and it sure seems there are a large number of books that are allowed a pass on the 'rules' if "grabbing the reader" in the first few pages.


And yet, when many of us submit, we get another rejection letter.

And no, many times there's no explenation--- they can't of course, their very busy.

But one of the first things we, as writers do, is go back in there and tighten the first several pages up.


Over and over and over.

And then we resubmit.


And yet, while we wait for some word on the revision....

we continue to read other books...

and there they are...

several dozen stories that ramble and ramble and ramble in the first 30 to 50 pages before getting your attention.


But then, I might be wrong.

Please feel free to correct me and I'll be properly humbled.


Sorry this sounds so cynical as one of my first postings here on the boards.

But it's so puzzling to me.

Looking forward to your collective thoughts/comments.

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My Thoughts as another unpublished novelist is that I am not trying to please the agent. I may not see my name listed on a published book, but I am the one writing the story the way I feel it best for the story. I am sure there are some agents that would try and tell some of the great masters, artist and authors, they should change their painting or their writings if they were doing them today.

It is somewhat like how much narrative vs. dialogue ... who's right and who's wrong. I personally don't care much for the novels in the thriller genre. I see no need for every novel to be filled with sex, blood and nasty langague either. I find it more of a challange and more artful to be able to convey these things without being distasteful.

Too many people today grew up watching TV instead of listening to stories on the radio. Radio gave people more depth, a greater imagination and less demanding for instant gratification.

I'm so glad you brought this up - I thought it was just me! (with delusions of grandeur?)!

I'm about to head back to re-write the first chapters to get more 'punch' in there before I send my work out again into the alien territory of Agent-land.

When I look at some of the stuff that gets published it beggars belief - and not all of them are 'big names' who are indulged by their publishers because they already have a proven track-record!

But a fine line has to be drawn (and hopefully not crossed...?) between how much you will 'prostitute' your work to attract the eye of an interested agent/publisher or remain with your own integrity as regards what YOU consider to be 'good' writing.

As a 'rookie' it's tempting to go 'all out' to snare an agent......! I suppose it might all come down to how deperate are you to become published?
"... they have a fan base and people BUY their books."

You've answered your own question. Why do you accept this only to a point? It's very simple logic. If 100,000 people are waiting for a writer's next book, what he puts out is already a winner. You and I must stand out in a huge, teeming crowd of wannabes. Our writing and stories have to be BETTER.
Good point or two, Dan.
It has nothing to do with your writing ability? Oh, my.

I think that's beyond cynical. Writers are getting picked out of slush piles every damn day. I can think of two women right now enjoying a wonderful start to their careers after getting calls from agents about their online short stories. They went through years and years of rejection first.

Nobody wants to believe how tough this is. Saying you want to be a novelist is like saying you want to be an actor.
It has EVERYTHING to do with writing. Everything.
Well, yes. Once you have a proven moneymaker, the pressure is off. But I do believe that the best agents and best editors also fall in love with books and try very hard to sell them.
Except there are no rules. Certainly if you want to grab an agent's or editor's (or reviewer's) attention, it's a good idea to write a strong first chapter with a great first paragraph--the decision to reject is often made, I'm guessing, after the first sentence or two (or even before, if your cover/abstract seem unprofessional or otherwise unpromising). It's a reasonable rule to follow any time you're writing a book on spec (without a contract), in any genre. If you've already sold the book, you can write it any way you want--as long as your editor okays it in the end. And sometimes a slower start allows the story to build more organically. Basically, the more established you are, the greater your freedom to experiment with narrative structure, as IJ and others here have said.
Thought you'd left us, Jon.
School must be in session again.
Ah, yes. That's very true. How soon we forget those dreary fall faculty meetings!
Except there are no rules.


The rule is, you have to compel the agent or editor or customer at a bookstore to keep reading. And none of these folks has a lot of patience.

I'm currently reading a novel called Slay Ride by Chris Grabenstein. The first two sentences: Christopher Miller is running. He cradles the child in his arms and feels the sting of a bullet biting into the back of his thigh.

How can I possibly stop there?

That's what you need to do with a sample sent with a query. Make sure it's impossible for them to not keep reading. Forget description. Forget back story. Put your protagonist in hot water and start generating some story questions.


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