Sunday, April 28, 2013

What Literary Agents Hate About Your Writing

Since my first book, Celebrity sTalker, was published, I've spent a lot of time on writer websites, figuring out what I did right, and what I did wrong. One of the following is what I did "wrong" but too late now! If you read my book, see if you can figure out which one.



“I don’t like it when the main character dies at the end of Chapter 1. Why did I just spend all this time with this character? I feel cheated.” - Cricket Freeman, The August Agency

“I dislike opening scenes that you think are real, then the protagonist wakes up. It makes me feel cheated.”
- Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“A sci-fi novel that spends the first two pages describing the strange landscape.” - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“I’m not a fan of prologues, preferring to find myself in the midst of a moving plot on page 1 rather than being kept outside of it, or eased into it.” - Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Most agents hate prologues. Just make the first chapter relevant and well written.” - Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

“Prologues are usually a lazy way to give back-story chunks to the reader and can be handled with more finesse throughout the story. Damn the prologue, full speed ahead!” - Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Perhaps my biggest pet peeve with an opening chapter is when an author features too much exposition – when they go beyond what is necessary for simply ‘setting the scene.’ I want to feel as if I’m in the hands of a master storyteller, and starting a story with long, flowery, overly-descriptive sentences (kind of like this one) makes the writer seem amateurish and the story contrived. Of course, an equally jarring beginning can be nearly as off-putting, and I hesitate to read on if I’m feeling disoriented by the fifth page. I enjoy when writers can find a good balance between exposition and mystery. Too much accounting always ruins the mystery of a novel, and the unknown is what propels us to read further.” - Peter Miller, PMA Literary and Film Management

“The [adjective] [adjective] sun rose in the [adjective] [adjective] sky, shedding its [adjective] light across the [adjective] [adjective] [adjective] land.” - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary

“I dislike endless ‘laundry list’ character descriptions. For example: ‘She had eyes the color of a summer sky and long blonde hair that fell in ringlets past her shoulders. Her petite nose was the perfect size for her heart-shaped face. Her azure dress—with the empire waist and long, tight sleeves—sported tiny pearl buttons down the bodice. Ivory lace peeked out of the hem in front, blah, blah.’ Who cares! Work it into the story.” - Laurie McLean, Foreword Literary


“Characters that are moving around doing little things, but essentially nothing. Washing dishes & thinking, staring out the window & thinking, tying shoes, thinking.” - Dan Lazar, Writers House

“I don’t really like ‘first day of school’ beginnings, ‘from the beginning of time,’ or ‘once upon a time.’ Specifically, I dislike a Chapter 1 in which nothing happens.” - Jessica Regel, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency


“Someone squinting into the sunlight with a hangover in a crime novel. Good grief — been done a million times.” - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“Cliché openings in fantasy can include an opening scene set in a battle (and my peeve is that I don’t know any of the characters yet so why should I care about this battle) or with a pastoral scene where the protagonist is gathering herbs (I didn’t realize how common this is).” - Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary


“I know this may sound obvious, but too much ‘telling’ vs. ‘showing’ in the first chapter is a definite warning sign for me. The first chapter should present a compelling scene, not a road map for the rest of the book. The goal is to make the reader curious about your characters, fill their heads with questions that must be answered, not fill them in on exactly where, when, who and how.” - Emily Sylvan Kim, Prospect Agency

“I hate reading purple prose – describing something so beautifully that has nothing to do with the actual story.” - Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary

“A cheesy hook drives me nuts. They say ‘Open with a hook!’ to grab the reader. That’s true, but there’s a fine line between an intriguing hook and one that’s just silly. An example of a silly hook would be opening with a line of overtly sexual dialogue.” - Daniel Lazar, Writers House

“I don’t like an opening line that’s ‘My name is…,’ introducing the narrator to the reader so blatantly. There are far better ways in Chapter 1 to establish an instant connection between narrator and reader.” - Michelle Andelman, Regal Literary

“Sometimes a reasonably good writer will create an interesting character and describe him in a compelling way, but then he’ll turn out to be some unimportant bit player.” - Ellen Pepus, Signature Literary Agency


“In romance, I can’t stand this scenario: A woman is awakened to find a strange man in her bedroom—and then automatically finds him attractive. I’m sorry, but if I awoke to a strange man in my bedroom, I’d be reaching for a weapon—not admiring the view.” - Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency


“A rape scene in a Christian novel in the first chapter.” - Chip MacGregor, MacGregor Literary


“I don’t like descriptions of the characters where writers make them too perfect. Heroines (and heroes) who are described physically as being virtually unflawed come across as unrelatable and boring. No ‘flowing, wind-swept golden locks’; no ‘eyes as blue as the sky’; no ‘willowy, perfect figures.’ ” - Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

“Many writers express the character’s backstory before they get to the plot. Good writers will go back and cut that stuff out and get right to the plot. The character’s backstory stays with them—it’s in their DNA.”
- Adam Chromy, Movable Type Management

“I’m turned off when a writer feels the need to fill in all the backstory before starting the story; a story that opens on the protagonist’s mental reflection of their situation is a red flag.” - Stephany Evans, FinePrint Literary Management

“One of the biggest problems is the ‘information dump’ in the first few pages, where the author is trying to tell us everything we supposedly need to know to understand the story. Getting to know characters in a story is like getting to know people in real life. You find out their personality and details of their life over time.” - Rachelle Gardner, Books & Such Literary

This list taken from Writer Unboxed, a great website for writers.

Friday, April 05, 2013

I Nominated This For The Shorty Awards And For My (mostly) Selfless Act Got A Mention In Buzz Feed


NYC Based Web Series Brings The Laughs

The Louise Log: A Comedy Web Series appeals to Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm fans.

posted on April 3, 2013 at 5:03pm EDT by Axton Ruiz

Comedy web series are a dime a dozen these days. Largely due to the fact we all have camera phones and think "if so and so can do it, I can surely do it". In reality we should wait for the professionals and spare our family members from enduring our had-to-be-there comedy videos. After our wait we then face the difficult task of finding the comedic gem in the proverbial haystack my father calls "the internets". Well take a break from your funny cat videos and fart jokes because I have found a web series with the comedy trifecta: consistency, relatability and hilarity. If you love Curb your Enthusiasm or Louie, check out "The Louise Log" web series.

"The Louise Log", created by Anne Flournoy, follows a Greenwich Village wife and mother as she struggles with her overactive inner voice. Each video explores Louise's attitude towards a variety of mundane topics. The topics range from picking your kids up from school, running into an old (and now more successful) friend or being perpetually late. The situations are unsurprising and relatable however Louise's reactions and inner-dialogue brings layers of laughter to the series. Flournoy has created a character defined by her awareness and attitude towards the world. It's Louise's world and we're just living in it.

Praised by iconic film critic Roger Ebert, notable playwright Eve Ensler and my favorite actress from Curb Your Enthusiasm, Suzy Soro, if you haven't heard of "The Louise Log" now is the time to get hip. The web series is already nominated for "Best Web Show" at the upcoming Shorty Awards so it's just amount of time before Fournoy hits the mainstream.

Don't miss an episode and subscribe at The Louise Log website. Or follow her on Twitter and Like her Facebook page.

Copyright © 2013 BuzzFeed, Inc.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

How Many Mothers Does It Take To Drive You Crazy?

It’s said that you never understand your mother until you become a mother yourself. Unless you count my helicopter parenting of my dog in 1990 I never became a mother. At least not the kind that wasn’t followed by the F word.

I grew up in Maryland, south of the Bacon-Dixon Line as my sister Lindy used to call it, and you don’t know humiliation as a teenager in the suburbs until you’re at the mall and your French mom yells across a crowded store, “Suzeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, we finally found a brassiere small eeeeenough for you.”  A French mom, just what every teenager needs to match her acne and double A cup bra.

Although Mom speaks English, it’s not her first language so some words still elude her:

MOM: If I'd had stinking balls I would have thrown zem at zose people.
ME: You mean a stink bomb?


ME: How are you this morning?
MOM: Not gude, I was reaching for somesing and injured my rotating cup.
ME: You have a cup that rotates?
MOM: Don’t you know anysing about anatomy?

And she doesn’t understand idioms at all. At my 8th birthday party she told my little friends that “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” and they all burst into tears.

Talking on the phone with her requires enormous concentration and math skills. Recently she told me that "Things haven't been this bad since the end of the Civil War.” Apparently she's older than I thought. She’s lied about her age for so long that I’m now older than she is. She said she has a doctor's appointment on Dec 13, 1912. She'd better push that appointment up BECAUSE OH MY GOD HOW IS SHE STILL ALIVE?

When she makes her yearly pilgrimage from Paris to Los Angeles the first thing Mom notices is what's wrong with my hair; the first thing Mom doesn’t notice is my rage. She can never open her luggage upon arrival, the key is missing, lost, or stolen by the customs inspectors trying to make off with her 32 year-old house dress. Then she sighs and when my mother sighs, it's the sigh of a thousand failures, which the French perfected. She’s such an expert at it that once in a hotel room she sighed so loudly she inadvertently ordered room service. I always joke that I'm getting my mother a silver lining for her birthday. Really not a joke.

She stays six weeks with my sister and two weeks with me and Lindy and I live in the same city. She demands so much attention that my friends can’t reach me as I’m basically incommunicado, which is Latin for Close to a Nervous Breakdown. I’m not my mother’s favorite child, as you might have figured out by now. I figured it out after she gave me her wedding gown for my own marriage and she knows full well I look terrible in maternity clothes. I brought out my baby scrapbook one day and in a group picture from kindergarten asked Mom to pick me out. Apparently I was a Chinese kid

But the irritation goes both ways. Whereas I can sit in a chair for four days straight, mom can't sit still for two minutes. She starts dinner. At 11 am. She has this bad habit of opening a window wherever she is: a car, your home, in every room. Needless to say I'm afraid to fly with her. She snores as rhythmically as a metronome so it's really too bad I don't play a musical instrument. She always calls me by my sister's name during phone calls but when we hang up I make sure to say, "Goodbye Dad." And Mom, if you’re reading this, you can’t get Dad’s military pay because he’s been dead for ten years so NO I CAN'T CALL HIM FOR YOU.

I make fun of my mom a lot. In my act, on the Internet, and in real life. And the person who laughs the loudest is my mom. She’s a good sport about it all and I know she enjoys the attention. But it has occurred to me the reason she laughs is she probably doesn’t understand my jokes and wants to throw some stinking balls at my head.