Welcome to The Insider Scoop, where I will bring you interviews, useful tips and tricks, and all sorts of insightful information from those deep within the children's book industry.
Today, I am pleased to introduce C.A. Marshall, a freelance editor, literary agency intern, and YA writer, who has kindly agreed to answer some questions and give us the insider scoop on writing ability, queries, the slushpile, and how you can distinguish your manuscript from the crowd.
So, let's dive straight in...
Question 1: What do you think is the most important quality a writer can have?
Patience. Don't rush through a draft and rush into queries/publication. Take the time to edit and revise and polish. It'll be worth it, I promise!
Question 2: What insights have you picked up during your time as an agent intern that may help other aspiring writers?
Never ignore standards. Trying to be gimmicky or an exception to the rules is not only annoying, but it's disrespectful sometimes too. Follow submissions guidelines and always be friendly and professional.
Question 3: What are the most common mistakes you see in the query slushpile, and what can queriers learn from these?
The most common mistake is following trends. Stories about boy wizards and vampires/werewolves and angels/demons and greek demigods have been done before. Interns can tell in an instant that you're writing to a trend. We don't want to see the next Rowling, Meyer, Stiefivater, or Riordan. We want to see the next YOU!
Question 4: Is the voice of the main characters, the author's writing ability, or the plotline the most important consideration for agents when reviewing a manuscript submission?
I think it's the writing ability. Those other certainly don't hurt, though. You could have an amazing character and plot, but if your writing is sloppy or boring or flat, you'll fail to capture the attention of the reader.
Follow-on question: In your opinion, how does a writer distinguish himself/herself from the slushpile crowd?
Make your book the best that you can possible make it. Use freelance editors and/or critique partners. It's a harsh publishing world out there and you'll want to give your book the best chances that you can.
Great advice! Thank you so much Cassandra for your insights.
If you haven’t already checked it out, C.A Marshall is giving away a fantastic prize – a free substantial edit (plot, pacing, character development etc) of a 100K word manuscript – to one lucky reader of her blog. The contest is open to English-speaking entrants worldwide, and closes on Monday September 20, 2010. Even better, Cassandra is willing to wait for up to a month after you win for you to finish your manuscript – time for a final polish, perhaps.
C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at camarshall.com