So you wanna write a book

By Joe Moore

It seems like every time I meet someone and they learn that I’m a writer, they always comment that they had often thought of writing a book, too. Sometimes I think the prospect of being a published author may be the number one goal or dream of everyone who has ever been excited by a good novel. It’s natural to think, “I could do that.” And in reality, they can. But most don’t or won’t. Why? Because the dream far exceeds the labor. Like most specialized occupations, the average would-be author will remain in the dreaming stage. Few proceed to the next step: actually sitting down and writing a publishable, contemporary work of fiction.

But for those that really want to take the next step, here are a few tips on getting that novel “inside us all” onto the page.

First, become an avid reader with the eyes of a writer. Read as many novels as you can get your hands on. But try to read from a writer’s viewpoint. Read for technique and style and voice. Keep asking questions like: Why did the author use that particular verb? Why is the writer using short, choppy sentences or long, thick description. Cross genre lines. The genre you wind up writing might not be the one you first imagined. Reading other’s work also can be inspiring. It is a source of ideas and helps to get the creative juices flowing.

Next, know the marketplace and write for it. The end product must be sellable. This goes back to being familiar with your chosen genre. You may love westerns, for instance, but they can be way down the sells chart and not a good choice for a debut author. Having said that, any story in any genre can be a hit if it’s built on strong characters. Always remember that your characters make your story, not the plot.

A third tip is to be true to yourself. Don’t try to push against what you feel in your heart and soul when it comes to your story. This may sound like the opposite of the previous tip, but that one deals with the business side of writing, this one the emotion. Beyond understanding the market, realize that if your heart is not in the words, the reader will know it. You can’t hide your lack of love for your writing.

Another tip is to have proper training. Being a devoted reader is only a portion of the task. I’ve had the opportunity (or drudgery) of reading many first-time writer’s work. It’s astounding how many people simply don’t know how to write. I’m not talking about style or content. Forget coming up with a cool plot or unique cast of characters. I’m talking about constructing a sentence with proper use of grammar and punctuation.

If you’re still in school, make sure you give your writing classes as much attention as possible. After all, they teach you the tools of your trade. If you’re out of school or later in life, consider taking some adult courses in basic English and perhaps in creative writing. They won’t teach you how to write a bestseller but can help you get your thoughts down on paper properly. Consider it a refresher course. Some colleges and universities offer degrees in writing. This is by no means a requirement to writing a novel, but it’s always a direction to go if you feel the need. And don’t forget attending writer’s workshops, conferences and joining a local critique group. Workshops are usually taught by pros; conferences have lectures and topic panels dedicated to strengthening your skills; and critique groups offer a new, fresh set of eyes to help improve your work.

Finally, once you’ve finished the first pass through your manuscript, the real work begins: rewriting, editing, polishing, and finishing. There’s nothing that will turn off an agent or editor quicker than an unpolished manuscript. There are tons of books available out there on how to self-edit your work. And getting others to take a look at it will help to reveal possible problems you missed. Edit, revise, edit, revise, repeat.

There’s a saying that everyone has at least one book inside them. But writing a book is hard. It takes firm commitment and dedication. Let your story out, but do it by following these logical steps. Skipping one of them usually results in frustration, disappointment and a half-finished manuscript collecting dust in the bottom of a drawer.

So what about you guys? Is this how you managed to finish your first book? Were you able to skip a step and jump right to a publishing contract and advance check? Any other tips to pass along to first-time authors?

THE PHOENIX APOSTLES, coming June 2011
"Bold, taut, and masterfully told." — James Rollins

Thinking about Theme

theme (Small) We often discuss the different elements of writing fiction here at TKZ. Topics such as plot, narration, characterization, dialog, and point of view are just a few that come up now and then. But a topic that’s not touched on as often is theme. Theme is usually a global statement on what a book is about. Theme goes beyond plot by conveying the message that supports the structure of the story. In many instances, it expresses a lofty idea usually revolving around human emotions or life in general.

A good starting point in determining a book’s theme is to first establish its subject or topic. This is normally expressed in a one-word description such as love, revenge, jealousy, fear, deceit, betrayal, etc. The theme can then be found by turning the subject or topic into a short, focused statement.

So for instance, if the subject of a novel is fear, the theme could be fear exposes the true nature of an individual. If the subject is revenge, the theme could be by taking revenge, you become just like your enemy. If the topic is betrayal, the theme might be that betrayal only hurts the ones you love.

A book’s theme can teach or preach. The former is preferred. No one wants to be preached to. But we all desire to build upon or confirm our beliefs. The theme can address “big” issues such as the meaning of life. Or something more manageable like crime doesn’t pay.

Whatever the theme, all stories have them. How well they come across without being “in your face” relies on the skill of the author.

What is the subject or topic of your favorite book(s)? And what was the theme? Did you feel the writer was teaching or preaching? How about your own work? Do you knowingly have a theme before you start writing?

Open Tuesdays

[image4.png]It’s time for another Open Tuesday while our blogmate, Kathryn Lilley, is on medical hiatus. Bring us your questions, comments and discussions. If you have a question about writing, publishing or any other related topic, ask away in our comments section. We’ll do our best to get you an answer.

And don’t forget you can download a copy of FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

Open Tuesdays

image It’s time for another Open Tuesday while our blogmate, Kathryn Lilley, is on medical hiatus. Bring us your questions, comments and discussions. If you have a question about writing, publishing or any other related topic, ask away in our comments section. We’ll do our best to get you an answer.

And don’t forget you can download a copy of FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

Coming up short with word count

By Joe Moore

“I’ve cut this rope three times and it’s still too short.”

image Despite the corny old carpenter joke about miss-measuring, it’s something that does happens from time to time when writing a book. You’re under contract to deliver a 100k-word manuscript and your first draft is 10k short. What do you do? Do you “pad” the writing—go in and add a lot of stuff just for the sake of word count. Padding usually involves “staging” or additional extraneous actions by your characters as they move around the “stage”. But doing it too much will call attention to the padding and wind up getting sliced out by your editor. Intentional padding is not the answer. But there are some legitimate ways to increase word count without bloating your story.

One suggestion is to build up your story’s “world” by conducting additional research and adding a few bits and pieces of atmosphere throughout. Let’s say your scene takes place in Miami Beach. Your character is having breakfast on the balcony of her hotel room overlooking the Atlantic. Without slowing down the story, add a few lines about the history of the hotel. Since most of the hotels on Miami Beach have been around for decades, certainly something might have happened years ago at the same local that could reflect on or be pertinent to the story’s plot or situation.

Another method is to utilize your character’s five senses. Are you making good use of them? Sitting on that balcony, your MC must be able to smell the fresh sea breeze and hear the gulls calling from overhead. Or she notices the ever-present container ships slipping along the horizon in the Gulf Stream. Could be that she can feel the film of salt coating the arms of her chair. How does her freshly squeezed OJ taste? You don’t want to use all 5 in every scene, but engaging the senses is a great way to expand the prose and take advantage of an opportunity to further develop your character.

The skill in expanding a manuscript is to do so without appearing to pad the writing. And you want to avoid going down a new rabbit hole and suddenly winding up with too many words such as introducing a new subplot. Always consider the two basic criteria for any additional words: they must either advance the plot or further develop the character. Otherwise, they don’t belong.

What about you? Have you ever come up short on contractual word count? How did you expand the story without it becoming blotted or obviously padded?

What is sellthrough?

By Joe Moore

Someone emailed me the other day and asked what sellthrough means in regard to publishing. Sellthrough is one of those buzzwords that helps a publisher evaluate their current and future relationship with a writer. It’s determined by the amount of books that were shipped and paid for, and it’s expressed as a percentage. For instance, let’s say a writer had a print run of 5000 books and the publisher shipped 4000 (orders). Of those, they received payment for 3500. The sellthrough would be 87.5% since 3500 is 87.5% of 4000. And a sellthrough that high would be a very good thing.

Now, the next question sent to me was: How important is sellthrough in the eyes of the publisher?

For that answer, I went to my friend Neil Nyren. Neil is senior vice president, publisher and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Here’s his response:

“Sellthrough is important for a couple of reasons. Every book has returns, no matter how successful it is – that’s just the nature of the business. But returned books cost money. We’ve printed and shipped them, but they haven’t sold, and so now all we can hope to do is sell them as remainders. So the fewer books that come back, the better the potential profit picture, for both the publisher and the author.

“Sellthrough is also an important indication of the traction a writer is acquiring in the marketplace. If your sellthrough is 80%, that means the books are sticking and the accounts have a positive history with you (after all, for every five books they ordered, they sold four). And that means a publisher can use that as a springboard to get them to order more copies next time (“Look how well you did!”). It’s an indication that – even if the figures are still small – there may well be growth potential there. It’s a very positive sign – and we can use all the positive signs we can get!”

So for all the published authors out there, it’s easy to calculate your sellthrough. Check your statement and divide the number of books sold by the number shipped—some publishers even calculate the sellthrough for you and display it on the statement. In the above example, the answer is .875 or 87.5%. For those who aren’t published yet, when you finally do get your first statement, you’ll already know one number to watch for that can tell you and the publisher a great deal about how you’re doing.

Download FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

In the land of zombies

Recently, I watched a movie called ZOMBIELAND staring Woody Harrelson and Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine). It was a fun movie with lots of laughs and clever moments like the “Zombie kill of the week” involving a grand piano, and a guest appearance by Bill Murray who played himself. Sadly, he was accidently shot and killed. Those things tend to happen in zombie movies. I’m not a zombie fan, but I enjoyed this movie.

zl1 I think it takes a lot of guts to write about zombies or vampires or werewolves. That’s because I consider those topics to be “box” stories. I feel that the moment you write the first word of a zombie story, you have placed yourself in a box. It’s hard to make a zombie more disgusting; everyone on the planet already knows how disgusting they are. Just like it’s a challenge to make a vampire more vile or a werewolf more dangerous. It’s sort of like writing about Jeffery Dahmer’s hearty appetite. You’re making the tough job of writing even tougher. The secret to great zombie stories is not the zombies, it’s the characters that must struggle to survive. Characters make the story. After all, George Lucas could have easily changed Luke Skywalker’s name to Frodo Baggins, set the story in a place called The Shire, changed the name from Star Wars to . . .well, you get the point. It would have been the same basic story because what matters are the characters, not the setting.

We don’t get to pick which one-page submissions we critique, our fearless founder Kathryn Lilley hands them out to each of us. So I may not be the best choice to comment on a zombie story simply because I don’t read them. But I can comment on the writing. And my comments follow today’s one-page anonymous submission called RUE.

They say that a person’s first memory shapes its being.

My first memory was of pain. Incredible, unending pain, beyond any possibility of relief. I tried to scream. There was no breath in my lungs to scream with, and besides, there were…things. In my throat, and in my nose. I couldn’t even think, the pain was so bad.

After a moment, or it might have been an eternity, the pain pulled back some, and I was able to grip the things – tubes, like the ones my grandmother had had in her mouth near the end (grandmother? I couldn’t remember the woman’s face, only that she had died in a hospital) and pull them out. That hurt too.

Once I was sitting upright and reasonably awake, I became aware of the hunger. It was terrible, a deep painful gnawing in my gut. I was starving.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” I called. My voice echoed out into the hospital, but there was no other sound. And there it was, the thing that had been bothering me: it was too quiet. I had been in hospitals before, and they were noisy places, polluted with the sounds of blood pressure machines and the many, many other things humans use to keep death at bay for just a little while longer.

So I got out of the bed. My feet hurt, but no more than anything else, and they would carry me. There was nobody in the hospital – or at least, nobody I could find. I kept thinking I could hear voices, just around the next corner, or the next…

I found the cafeteria, though, and helped myself. Eating with my hands like a savage I emptied three huge serving bowls of lasagne that had seen better days. It didn’t really help much. I was still starving.

I went on. It was about then that the first zombie found me. It had been a doctor once, I think. It wasn’t anymore. It was just a mindless…thing, and it was hungry. My first impression of it was confused. Lab-coat, once white, now a sort of greyish brown. Grey skin. Hair falling out in clumps, and eyes that saw nothing. And over it all a deep black chasm of hunger, laced with hopeless screams. That’s one thing the living were fortunate not to know. The walking dead are still aware. Trapped, helpless in their decaying bodies, the soul of each zombie screams endlessly for some kind of release, bound about by the endless consuming hunger of the undead.

This is a pretty good beginning although I was a bit thrown by the first line indicating this was “My first memory”. I immediately pictured an infant with a phenomenal awareness. But reading on made it clear that it was an adult or young adult. The sex is unknown.

There’s conflict right off the bat with the medical impediments and the unnerving isolation in what should be a busy place. I think it’s over-written and just needs a good, swift kick with a red pen. But overall, I’m going to assume a zombie fan would keep reading to find out if this person makes it out of the hospital. In reality, isn’t that the plot of all zombie stories?

One advantage to writing a zombie story is that the basic conflict is built-in and comes with the territory. We know there’s going to be danger around every corner and the protagonist will probably get few moments to take a breather. So overall, I’ll give this submission a B-. Get out the editing pen, clean it up, delete all the unnecessary words, and the author will have a good start here.

What do you zombie and non-zombie fans think? Would you keep reading?

Download FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

One-page critique of Bullet’s Name

By Joe Moore

We continue our one-page critique project at TKZ with an anonymous submission called Bullet’s Name.

August, 1937

It was just after eleven on a Sunday morning when God-fearing people were in church and reprobates were sleeping in from reprobating all night.

Jasper Green was waiting for me in a rundown colored roadhouse a few miles outside Salisbury, North Carolina. I parked the well-worn Ford sedan that I’d rented three days earlier for ten bucks a day from a less-than-honest car dealer in Charlotte. I parked just shy of sparkling Dodge coupe with a Carolina plate.

The front door stood open so I crossed the porch and walked into the dim interior. The water-stained ceiling undulated gently like the surface of the ocean. The pine floors were worn paper smooth and the place smelled of spilled beer, cigarette smoke and a hint of a shallow piss pit out back. Some of the dark-brown floor stains looked like residue from blade work.

Green sat like a king with his back in a corner, his black hair pomaded to his narrow skull like sun-baked paint. His right hand was under the table, his dusty brown eyes reflected amused disinterest. A young negress, with a lithe body that gave turned a simple cotton shift into an elegant gown, was delivering a bottle of whiskey to his table when I came in and she looked at me like I was tracking in a dog turd.

In a welcoming gesture, Jasper Green smiled disarmingly and raised his chin to invite me over. When I got to the table, he pointed at the chair opposite and said, “Sit down and take a load off, buddy.”

I would recommend that the writer proofread the work before submission. Even if this is a rough first draft, the writer could have taken a few seconds to make sure this single page was clean and devoid of errors. There are words missing: “the” or “a” before the word “sparkling”, and extra words that don’t belong: “gave” just before “turned”. We are told twice in a row that “I parked”.

Regarding the writing, there’s nothing wrong with using metaphors, similes and strong description to create atmosphere and sense of place. But in this example, there are way too many. Some are confusing and some just don’t work. I don’t think using the verb “undulated” is a good way to describe a ceiling unless you’re drunk on your back staring up at it.

I would bet that beer drinkers love the smell of beer. I would even bet that they would have no issue with the aroma of spilt beer. I think what the writer meant was the odor of spilled beer from a week or a month ago—the smell of stale beer.

I assume the dark stains resulting from “blade work” mean blood spilled from past knife fights. That almost works, but for me it was too obscure.

I would suggest changing “colored roadhouse” to “negro roadhouse”. In today’s politically correct mindset, colored does not have the impact that negro would.

I’ve heard of people described as having a narrow face or even a narrow head, but a narrow skull doesn’t quite put a vivid picture in my mind. Word choice is so important. The word skull, for me at least, has a totally different connotation than head. And is pomaded the right word choice for this setting? The first page may not be the best time to send your reader running for a dictionary or the writer trying to exhibit an extended vocabulary. Remember that you are establishing your voice from page one.

From across the room, the main character could see that Jasper’s eyes were a “dusty brown”, a description I find somewhat attractive for a person the writer is trying to paint as a dark or questionable character.

The sentence that starts with “A young negress” lacks proper punctuation. It also paints a contradiction. This “lithe” girl who turns rags to royalty when it comes to her wardrobe suddenly is assumed to think in terms of turds. A complete turn-off for me.

An overall comment: you cannot describe a character into being good or bad. This can only be done through their actions and reactions. This submission tries to use description to do the job. It may be a sign that the writer doesn’t “know” the characters well enough yet.

Summary: proof read, use economy of words—less is always more, use proper punctuation, and start a story at the moment of impact where the main character is tossed out of his or her comfort zone. Chances are, an agent would not read beyond this page.

What about you? Would your read on?

Download FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

The demise of free advertising and a first-page critique of The Birds

By Joe Moore

Have you ever seen someone reading a novel at the beach, on a plane, train, doctor’s office, subway, or just noticed a book sitting on a coffee table in someone’s house? Next to having a friend or trusted colleague recommend a book, seeing someone else reading a book is a great product endorsement. After all, that stranger on the plane paid good money to buy it, and you can tell even from a distance just how much they’ve read. If it’s more than half way, that’s a great indicator that the book is worth your time. And what’s really cool is that every one of those books come with free advertising. It’s called cover art. Not only is seeing someone reading a book a good indication that it’s worth reading, but the cover helps reinforce the sell.

Now comes a new dilemma, a byproduct of the emergence of e-books. With the advent and growing popularity of e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, there’s no more free advertising. Seeing someone reading from a Kindle on a plane or in a Starbucks tells you absolutely nothing about the book. How far have they read? Who knows. And what genre is it? After all, isn’t that the job of the cover art? Even in this era of the emerging e-readers, publishers still believe that books need graphic representations, if only for online marketing. But what about all that free advertising those authors got when their books showed up at the beach or on a train?

If the trend continues, someday it might be gone.

imageAnd now for my critique of today’s first-page submission to TKZ. I don’t know what the author’s WIP is called, so I’ll refer to it as The Birds. You’ll soon see why.

As I maneuvered through the after-work crowd and weaved between the tents of the farmer’s market in Daley Plaza, children clambered up the spine, mounted the wings, and slid down the belly of the 50-feet Picasso sculpture. At the market, people mused over smoked cheddar and peppercorn; heirloom, beefsteak and roma tomatoes; red and black raspberries; white and sweet potatoes; red, green, and yellow peppers and orchards of every variety.

Wild shadows cut across the sky and a gust of wind whooshed into my ear. I stopped cold. Lying at my feet, a seagull quivered. His wings were crooked and bones protruded through his gray feathers. Blood saturated his white underbelly and painted the ground, then the trembling ceased.

“Are you alright?” a man asked, “Did it hit you?”

Forming words seemed impossible. I shook my head.

“Poor thing,” said a woman.

The man tilted his head to the sky. “Never seen seagulls this far inland. Mostly pigeons around here.”

Hundreds of seagulls flying in disarray blocked out the fading evening light. Their cries reminded me of a maternity ward, when one newborn’s cries started up the rest of the babies. A great swoosh of wings stirred up the still air and reverberated across the sky. Something brushed against the back of my neck. Another, against the top of my head. I crouched, covering my ears. One by one the birds rained down on us. Bones snapped against the pavement. Bones crushed underfoot. People panicked and ran into each other. A man elbowed me in the side.

This is a dramatic opening. In fact, it’s verging on melodramatic. It’s also over written and somewhat confusing. Obviously, there’s some scary stuff going on in this scene. Something is making flocks of seagulls fly in disarray and crash into the ground. The problem for me was that the writing is way over the top and exaggerated. And the character is in no real danger, only the birds are. Still, it has some intrigue. An apocalyptic event or environmental situation is causing animals to fall from the sky right into the beefsteak tomatoes. That’s not to be taken lightly. I’d be interested in knowing what it is, but if I were an agent, I’m afraid I’d be hard pressed to keep reading. My advice to the writer is to pull back, distill the essence of this scene and proceed with an economy of words.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Download FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.

First Page Critique

By Joe Moore

ITW_Award_black_72dpi Yesterday, the nominees for the 2010 ITW Thriller Awards were announced. Congratulations to our Kill Zone blogmate, John Gilstrap! His thriller NO MERCY was nominated for Best Paperback Original. This is a great honor and we all wish John the best of luck in taking home that award next July.

This past Sunday, Jim posted a blog about the importance of the opening pages of a manuscript submitted to an agent or editor. He pointed out some common pitfalls that new authors make, and which ultimately can result in rejection. Clare continued the theme on Monday by listing additional sins committed by first-time writers. And yesterday, Kathryn invited our visitors to submit the first page of their manuscript for a free critique. Unless otherwise requested, the authors will remain anonymous. So to start things off, here’s our first submission and my critique, page one of the manuscript THE CASSIOPEIA EFFECT

Marcus had never seen a dead body before. No, that’s misleading. He had seen a dead body—two of them in fact. That came with burying his wife and daughter eight years earlier. What he’d never seen before was a dead body lying in the streets. It was common enough in the part of the city he found himself living, where the homeless turned up dead from time to time, but up until a few moments ago, he’d been lucky.

It seemed his luck had changed. Whatever streak he’d been riding was coming to an end at an alarmingly fast rate. In the last twenty-four hours he’d lost a small fortune to his bookie, been given a notice of eviction from his apartment, and crashed his computer. Now there was a dead guy leaning against his car. It really didn’t surprise him, though.

For him, Good Luck came and went like a five dollar whore giving head while parked next to the curb. Bad luck, on the other hand, was like a bad love affair he couldn’t put an end to. No matter how many times it left, it always showed back up knocking at his door. All the other stuff had been Bad Luck knocking; finding the dead guy next to his car was it breaking down the door and rushing back into his life.

Marcus stepped off the curb and walked to his car and the waiting dead man. The filthy trench coat, ripped pants, and mismatched shoes left little doubt that the guy was one of the many homeless who wandered the streets. The amount of blood splattered across the car door made it pretty apparent the homeless guy was dead. But Marcus was still going to check. There was no way he was going to let a man die if there was still a chance to save him. He already had to live with too many things he wasn’t proud of and wasn’t about to add another.

Careful to avoid the blood pooled on the oil stained pavement, he knelt down next to the body, pulled back the collar of the coat with one hand, and with the other, checked for a pulse. Nothing. Whoever he had been, he was nothing but dead now. Marcus’ eyes played over the strange pattern of blood spray on the car door as he tried to decide what to do next.

There wouldn’t be any calls to 911 or the police. Moving him off the car and leaving him in front of his building for someone else to find wasn’t an option either. He didn’t need a dead guy connected to him in any way. What he could do, Marcus decided, was take him a few blocks where he’d be found and, hopefully, get the burial he deserved.

One of the main issues raised in Jim’s post on Sunday was what he called “Exposition Dump”. Unfortunately, that’s what we have in this example—the first 3 paragraphs contain a great deal of backstory with little “here and now”. This information should be saved and revealed later.

The best method for a reader to get to know a character is through their actions and reactions. Telling me about the bad luck Marcus has had does not engage me emotionally or spark my interest.

But all is not lost. In addition to cutting back on the “telling”, the writer might want to consider shifting the story into first person. Doing so could cause the reader to be pulled up close to the character and perhaps have a bit more feelings for Marcus. Here’s an example.

The first couple of sentences read:

Marcus had never seen a dead body before. No, that’s misleading. He had seen a dead body—two of them in fact. That came with burying his wife and daughter eight years earlier.

Now, here it is in first person:

I’d never seen a dead body before. No, that’s not true. Eight years ago, I had to bury my wife and daughter. But this was different.

Suddenly, the scene questions that pop into the readers mind—questions that were weak before—are now personal and tantalizing. The most intriguing: What happened to his wife and daughter? The straight exposition didn’t cause me to consider the questions in the same manner.

The second point I need to make is that if Marcos is the main character (and I have no idea if he is or not), I don’t like him very much. Why? He shows bad judgment. He’s into $5 whores, illegal gambling, and not willing to at least call the police—even anonymously—to report what he’s found. He quickly comes to the decision that for his own best interests, he should gather up the dead man and dump the body in another location. Granted, we don’t know why he would react this way, but having a number of negatives with little positive doesn’t make for a very likeable character. The reader needs to feel something for the character pretty much from the start. All I feel about Marcus is negative.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing objectionable about a character with those attributes as long as there’s a reason for the reader to sympathize with him and respect or at least understand his judgment. Right now, there’s nothing here I was able to latch on to.

I like to use my “Dirty Harry” example of how to establish a reader/viewer and character relationship fast. The first scene of the movie, Harry helps a little old lady cross the street. Then he goes into a coffee shop that’s being robbed and blows the bad guy away. I like Harry right from the start even though I know he’s rough around the edges, dangerous, cocky, and kind-hearted.

The truth is that most manuscripts get rejected by the end of the first page—or at least the first couple of pages. This is reality. No agent is going to persevere for fifty or a hundred pages in hopes that things might get better. And no reader will either.

What I’ve expressed is my personal opinion. If I were an agent or acquisition editor, I would probably reject this manuscript and move on to the next one in line.

So what do you think? After reading the first page, are you compelled to read the second page?

Download FRESH KILLS, Tales from the Kill Zone to your Kindle or PC today.