The idea behind this session (the sixth annual, I believe) is for Jack Whyte to read the first page of anonymously submitted stories in his mellifluous accent and sonorous voice. A panel of four agents: Michelle Johnson, Patricia Ocampo, Nephele Tempest, and Bree Ogden listen until they hear a reason to stop. At that point, the agent raises her hand. If two or more agents raise their hands, the reading stops, and the agents explain why.
I am not possessed of an eidetic memory and so I must beg off repeating verbatim the content of the stories or their critiques except to say that the first two were brilliant and made it through the full reading. On several occasions, including the first two, agents asked for partials on the basis of the reading alone.
What I will do is to share what the agents liked and disliked. I made fairly detailed notes on that.
- A distinctive voice
- Sensory detail
- Pacing that accomplishes several things in alternation: dialogue, action, and description used to world-build, offer snippets of back-story, create atmosphere.
- Raise questions
- Make the reader want to know what happens next.
- Too much description
- Not enough action
- Inauthentic/unrealistic situations, characters, etc.
- Someone waking up – kiss of death
- Not identifying the narrator/POV character
- Too much effort
- Beautiful writing with nothing behind it
- Tell us what’s happening – don’t be coy.
Did I submit my first page? Why yes, I did.
Did my first page make it through the reading? Indeed, but one of the agents raised her hand.
The verdict: overwritten.
Truth be told, I felt ill. Not the end of the world, though. As we shall soon see.
Next up: The Bestseller Banter panel.