Happy Agent Monday, folks! Hope everyone had a relaxing lazy weekend. Here’s the continuation of my What I’m Looking For series where I go into more depth explaining what I tweeted for the #mswl (manuscript wish list) event a few weeks back over at Twitter…since 120 characters or so just can’t possibly say it all.
If you have the next Bridget Jones – smart, funny, relatable w/ heart – I want to see it!
Okay, here’s the thing: I am a bit of a chick flick fan. I like my flicks touching and heartfelt, hilarious and smart. Mean Girls, She’s the Man, 13 Going on 30, all the Bridget Jones flicks, Never Been Kissed, Crazy Stupid Love, etc. etc. etc. So it’s not surprising that I’d love to find a book that I can fit into that sort of category. A funny and SMART read.
What is surprising? How hard it has been to find one of these. First of all there is the whole cliché slippery slope that most of these submissions fall into. If it’s been done before, then it’s not going to cut the mustard. I deal with major publishers and their top imprints and they aren’t looking for knockoffs. Neither am I. That’s why as a viewer I was so taken with the movie Silver Linings Playbook. It was as fresh as fresh can be and kept me guessing and intrigued and drawn in every step of the way. I know. I keep talking about movies!
So back to books. Too many of the submissions have been too predictable and too familiar. Another problem? The tone and voice have been an issue. Sometimes I’ll get a query for what sounds like a really spot on premise, but then the manuscript falls flat. When you read a Shopaholic book, Becky’s voice is addictive. The way she talks herself into nonsense is truly funny, and she says things to herself that almost make sense (we’ve told ourselves the very same things from time to time). Bridget Jones’ voice is a funny and perceptive everyman voice that we can’t help but root for. Who wouldn’t applaud the result of happiness and true love even for a girl whose ass is roughly the “size of two bowling balls”? My point here is that voice matters. Tone, too, matters.
Some of the manuscripts I get have a tone that is just too strident. I don’t want to hang out for a few hundred pages with someone who is bitter, or completely selfish, or just plain stupid. Would you?
Another thing that many manuscripts have done is to put way too much emphasis on explicit sexual encounters. I know that the whole 50 Shades craze feels hot – but, how shall I phrase this? It doesn’t get me hot to make an offer. What I’m looking for instead is a novel where I care about the character, I worry about her, I feel her loss, I root for her, and I laugh with her as she encounters life’s crazy obstacles, and in the end? A satisfying, albeit unusual triumph. That’s not a category romance thing either. If your query reads like a mechanical formula: she’s a girl who such and such, but he’s a guy who (just the opposite)…they are forced together when blah blah blah. Feels dull to me, honestly. I’m looking for something more original than that.
Too much to ask for? I hope not. I don’t want you to think that every submission of women’s chick-lit-like fiction has been a complete miss. There have certainly been some close calls. And, like Stephanie Plum, I remain optimistic, even when everything around me points southward.
So if you think you have written what might become the next great Bridget Jones novel, please send it to me. I’m waiting – and so is our film agent!
Another #mswl explained next week!
*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.