I wrote a fiction novel. I sent it to some agents. Most of them never responded. Others said my sentences were boring. But my story is really good. I know it is. I don’t understand the agents. I have mastered spelling and punctuation. My computer likes my writing. What else is there?
Help me Maggie!
Dear Not Boring,
I truly hate to disillusion you – although not that much admittedly – but the agents were right. If your “fiction novel” (what other kind is there?) is composed of sentences similar to those in your letter to me, I can see your problem.
Writing experts recommend that sentences should be varied in terms of length and construction. It’s not enough to master purely mechanical details like spelling and punctuation. In addition you need to avoid writing sentences that follow the same format, as in your case, namely, subject-verb-predicate. Employ various and sundry clauses and place them in different locations within your sentences. Using different lengths, as well as constructions (think “complex” versus “simple”), will also help considerably in creating more visually appealing material.
Let’s take your own letter as an example. Here’s a better way to write it, following my brief recommendations:
“I recently wrote a novel that I thought was really good. Although I sent it out to a number of agents, most of whom did not even deign to reply, the ones who did claimed that my sentences were boring. Maggie, I just don’t understand. Is it not enough to master spelling and punctuation? What more can I do to improve my story and, hopefully, find an agent to represent me?”
Do you see the difference? If not, you’re even more hopeless than I thought, which is pretty bad. And as far as computers go, If you really were a good writer/editor – and believe me, buster, you still have a long ways to go – you’d know better than to rely too much on your word processor’s built-in grammar guide. Besides, there are times when you want to break at least some of the rules of grammar for the sake of emphasis (but I’ll save that for another day).
In the meantime, go back and rewrite you entire novel. Better yet, throw that one out and write a story about stupid computers. It should do well as a sci-fi novel and would be a refreshing change from those I’ve seen about smart machines that take over the world.
P.S. You’re really a little kid pretending to be a writer, aren’t you?