And Becca Birkin Went to SCBWI . . .

by Becca Birkin!

I got back from SCBWILA a week ago. It was exhausting, and reminded me that the writing world is fast-paced. Agents and editors are very busy. Not only can they afford to be picky, they have to be.

 “The quality of what’s being published these days is very high, and your manuscript may be very good, but they are holding out for great.” SCBWI Market Report, Deborah Halverson.
So what can we do to move our manuscripts from good to great? The following is advice from the editor/agent panels.
Structure: Wendy Loggia, executive editor at Delacorte, likes manuscripts that show mindfulness in structure and clear vision of what the book will look like. The book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is an example. The main story and the backstory of the girl are separated with visual “play” and “pause” icons.
Uniqueness: Marylee Donnely of Candlewick Press said, “When I find something that’s fresh or exciting, it’s like meeting a new person that enchants or excites you. This is a storyteller I want to listen to.”
Your book is going to be up against hundreds of others in your category. Can you probe deeper for that extra element which could make your story stand out?
Polish and Pitch: While it’s a fast-paced world, “There is no speeding up how to get better as a writer,” said Luica Montcreve of Dial BFYR. So do your work. Write, revise, repeat.
As you edit, make sure you create a great pitch. This is your chance to frame the unique and special in your story, something with a word-of-mouth factor. Use specific details that make it stand out. “A story about a boy whose family doesn’t love him” could be lots of plots. “A boy with magical power must defeat the wizard who killed his parents” has instant recognition.
Now go back and make sure your story is as strong as your tagline. As you craft a great pitch and a unique story that lives up to that expectation, your manuscript is another step closer to great.
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