a friend of mine was having trouble getting the attention of agents, and wondered if i'd read his manuscript and let him know what i thought.
don't start looking around. this friend is not somebody who blogs, so i doubt he'll see this post. If he does, i don't think he'll mind. his backstory: he's been writing several years, has completed a few manuscripts, and has had short stories published in well-known anthologies. so he's been writing seriously for a long time.
i put the ms down at page 90.
at that point i was still waiting for the story to start. he was doing something i used to do and still do -- taking detours that fail to move the story forward. every scene has to push the story. it can't be enough that it reveals character or backstory. it still has to push the story forward at the same time. i'm no writing teacher, so i usually stay away from the nuts and bolts of writing, but i felt compelled to shout one word - PACING. never lose track of the main plot. don't take detours. don't get distracted by a scene that might be fun to write, but isn't pushing the story forward. don't keep us in the dark too long or we will walk away. you have to constantly ask yourself: what is the purpose of this scene? what does it accomplish? if the answer is constantly that it reveals more character or tells backstory -- that's a warning sign right there. you can briefly step out of what's going on now, but you have to be quick about it and you can't do it very often.
this writer was also inserting scenes that were supposed to be suspenseful, but were just confusing. TELL THE STORY. Don't be afraid to tell the story. i have to remind myself of this TELL THE STORY business all the time because i find i want to cling to the heart of the story and save it for later.
we now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
i just spotted a bat in my attic.