To find out what it takes to get your manuscript considered, you could try reading the latest debut pieces. After all, if this is what's being published, what better guide might there be?
The first two books with flap copy indicating a debut work made the cut. No matter the plot, I only wanted to see what was on the opening pages that made a literary agent sit up and say, "This is brilliant and I must share it with the world."
Maybe I didn't make the best choices.
Stephen Lovely and Joyce Hinnefeld are both writing teachers. It's assumed that, since they teach it, they would know how to construct a novel. Not much editing required of a professional, the manuscripts are ready to go. They have an advantage there over the rest of us.
Mr. Lovely's novel, Irreplaceable, is set in Iowa where he lives, and there's all kinds of action in a hospital, where he once worked.
Write what you know, he's probably telling his students.
There's plenty of tension in the chapters, with a grieving widower and the heart transplant recipient who wants to meet him, the cartoonish bad guy who killed the guy's wife in a traffic accident, not to mention bad marriages and the stress of illness. Except for the parts where the author goes into detail about the heart transplant process (Dear Reader, I did my research and I will share every gory moment with you) and the narrative drags, it's a good example of how to tell a story. Not too surprising that Lisa Bankoff of ICM took Mr. Lovely into her stable.
As for Ms. Hinnefeld's In Hovering Flight, it's a mystery. What did Liv Blumer find in the opening pages that made her read on?
The book opens with a narrator talking about Audubon, painter of birds. There's a bird painter in the novel, according to the flap copy, but there's also supposed to a be tale of mothers and daughters, about the mother dying and the daughter coming to understand the woman and all that. I forced my eyes to cover the first fifty pages and didn't find any tension, anything that reflected the promise of the flap copy, or anything to keep me reading.
The author, however, won a prestigious award for her short fiction. Is that the key that opened Liv Blumer's door?
I should be more selective when I choose these novels for study. Or is there no chance of a debut author arising from the ranks of the civilian population?