Here are the notes from Session 3 at WWA - nothing new here, but it never hurts to be reminded.
OBSERVATIONS FROM THE MS PILE by Tina Wexler at ICM
There are 5 main things she looks for in a submission:
- a strong hook
- a great opening chapter
- distinct voice
- memorable characters
- engaging plot
HOOK – Having a strong hook doesn’t equal commercial. A complex story can also be high concept. She wants depth and emotional resonance.
Does your book have a hook? Is there an ‘oh’ factor? It’s a very crowded market so she needs stories that stand out.
Main reasons she passes on a ms – It’s too quiet (not enough hook), it feels like a copy of a copy, the hooks feel like gimmicks.
GREAT OPENING CHAPTER – Throw her into the story. Make an emotional connection. Keep her curious. Minimize back story and setup. She used One Hundred Candles as an example of great opening chapter.
Main reasons she stops reading:
- she gets bored. If you hook her right away, she might slog through other chapters that are weaker because she knows you’re capable.
- She’s not emotionally invested in the characters
VOICE – it’s complicated, but it’s all about the right word choice and sentence structure for that particular character
Beware: Don’t confuse loading your sentences with loading on voice. Voice shouldn’t get in the way of progress.
Read your work aloud.
MEMORABLE CHARACTERS - know them. What’s their education, environment, family and friends. Make sure what you know gets on the page.
She often passes because she doesn’t feel she knows the characters.
ENGAGING PLOT – plot is the shape of the surprise. It’s what happens. Make bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.
Characters don’t need to be likeable, but she at least needs to know them. Has no problem with unlikable characters.
Plot is the easiest thing to fix.
Main reasons why a plot isn’t working: too predictable, too easy, too boring (for her), too twisty/confusing.
A strong setting is important.
Sharp dialogue moves the story quickly. Realistic.
Also wants a satisfying ending.