It’s always a cause for celebration when one of my query letters manages to snag the attention of an agent. At this time, I’ve sent out a grand total of 100 queries to various prestigious literary agencies, hoping to lure their interest toward my four completed novel-length manuscripts. Of the responses, about 30% have been nonexistent (they either weren’t interested or haven’t replied yet) and 60% have been form letter rejections (they’re not taking on new clients or don’t think my novel is a good fit). But 10% have been positive. The agents like what they’ve seen in my queries and would like to see more—usually in the form of a partial manuscript.
Although 8 of the 10 agents ultimately declined to represent me (I’m still waiting to hear back from two), Donald Maass was kind enough to take the time to provide the following feedback:
“Your premise is very intriguing, yet I found there was not enough line-by-line tension in this opening scene to keep me really glued to the page.”
At the writers’ conference I attended last fall, I heard the same thing when I was fortunate to receive critiques from authors Jack Cavanaugh and Susan Meissner. Bottom line: I need conflict in some form on every page for my novels to work.
Which brings me to NBC’s Friday Night Lights. Never watched it? You should. I hadn't seen a single episode of the show until a few weeks ago. My wife suggested it, since seasons 1-3 were available to stream on Netflix, and we gave it a shot. We were immediately hooked—and still are.
Why? This show breathes tension. There is conflict in almost every scene—that “line-by-line tension” I’m missing. The writing is superb, and the acting is pretty good too.
Oh, and there’s FOOTBALL.