How to catch the attention of a literary agent with your writing (Picture: Getty)
What keeps you hooked when you’re reading a novel?
Twists and turns? Great characters? Writing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside?
Identifying the things that make a good book can be key when it comes to writing your own fiction. But what are experts in the industry looking for in new fiction writing?
We asked Lizzy Kremer, Jemima Forrester and Maddalena Cavaciuti, all literary agents at David Higham Associates, to share their magic ingredients for fiction.
So, if you’re embarking on you own writing journey, make sure you have a read to find out exactly what people in the publishing industry are looking for.
Central characters we can connect with
What this means varies based on the genre of your book, and indeed the story you are telling.
Not all main characters have to likeable, for example, but we do need to have a clear sense of who they are, and why they behave in the way they do. Often, we need to understand and relate to that behaviour, even if it isn’t something we would do or condone ourselves.
Character motivation is a note which comes up often, so having this figured out early on, and telling a story which is true to a credible set of core ideas and behaviours is always exciting to find in a submission.
There are lots of frequently used tropes in commercial fiction – enemies-to-lovers romances, secrets from the past coming to the surface, the unreliable narrator who is involved in a crime. All of these have been, and continue to be, a strong foundation for a story, but it’s important that your novel takes them in an original direction.
We probably know that the couple we’re rooting for in a love story will get together at the end, but how can you make the journey feel unpredictable?
The Man Who Didn’t Call by Rosie Walsh, is a great example of a love story which pulls the reader in many the unexpected direction.
Equally, there have been many crime novels published in the last decade, and lots of very good twists in those novels. The more we read, the more we become canny to what a twist might be, so if this is something you have in your work, it really needs to pack an unexpected punch.
What do we suspect the twist is going to be? How can you pull the rug out from under us if we think we’ve got it sussed?
Something special in the writing
It feels obvious, doesn’t it? But so often, this is what tips the scales for agents.
We can work with an author on the structure, tone, plotting and characters in their books, but we need there to inherently be something in the writing which sets the book apart – be that an undeniable warmth, a unique voice, or a wicked sense of humour.
Ultimately, this comes down to …read more