I attended a writer's conference in Boston over the weekend. Chuck Sambuchino was the keynote speaker. He did a great job of plowing through writing advice from author platform to how to write a solid query (the video above is how to do an in-person pitch), but the highlight of the event for me was the "Writer's Got Talent" session.
About seven of the literary agents who attended made up a panel to critique first pages of anonymously submitted novel manuscripts. Chuck read the page until three agents held up their hands, then he stopped and let the agents explain why they would stop reading at that point.
They were blessedly candid. One agent even confessed that certain words turn her off. She said she knew it seemed shallow to stop reading a manuscript at the word "shapely," for example, but when you're pouring through 200 plus pages a day, you are looking for a reason to say no.
I found their instantaneous critiques fascinating and enlightening. I also learned loads from the pages they commented on as to what worked and what didn't. Over-descriptive language was a sure sign of an author trying too hard. Verb tense shifts were another problem, and info dumping was a common error as well. And they didn't always agree with each other, which goes to show that the industry is subjective.
I walked away from that session feeling less distant from the querying process. I also found I was often agreeing with the agents' assessments, which gave me confidence that I'm arriving at an understanding of what works well and what does not. And as you know, any confidence boost a writer can get is a welcome one.
I also enjoyed the in-person pitches I had with agents. Both sessions went well and I walked away with two requests for manuscripts and loads of information on how to make my queries even better.
The conference was worth all the logistics that went into getting me there.
Have a great week.