The Value of Short

A writing tip from Janet Reid

There is enormous value in learning to write concisely. Some years back I heard a very gracious, very short speech from the winner of the William F. Deeck unpublished manuscript grant at the Malice Domestic convention. I was instantly enamored of the author, both what she said and how cogently she said it. I levered myself over the banquet table and leapfrogged Charlaine Harris to get to this writer ahead of my colleagues.

Long story short (ha! Get it? Short!) I met Stephanie Jaye Evans that night, read her book the next week, and signed her as a client and sold her book to Berkley soon thereafter.

She got my attention with a short, gracious, well practiced speech. Flash fiction is just like that only on paper. Treat your entry like you would an introduction to an agent. Put your best foot forward. It’s not that there are penalties for failure, it’s that are rewards for success.

I keep a close eye on the writers who enter the flash fiction contests on my blog. The ones who know how to write really well in this short form are people I want to make sure query me when they’re ready. In other words, they’re not querying cold. I already know them and want to read their work. Isn’t that how you want to query me? (yes it is!)

Janet Reid is a literary agent in New York City. Her blog is designed to terrify writers into sending great query letters:

Everything looks perfect in Sugar Land, Texas. But it’s not.

No one knows that better than Walker “Bear” Wells, a former college football player now serving as a minister in this upscale Texas town, where famous athletes mix with ranchers and the local parish priest wants to arm wrestle. It’s a beautiful master-planned community, but people can’t be held to neighborhood restrictions, and Bear deals daily with emotional and spiritual problems, in both his flock and his own family.

But never murder. Not until a man is found dead on the nearby golf course, his skull crushed.

Bear has no interest in playing detective. His job is praying for the dead, not searching for their killers. But every time he turns around, another facet of the investigation tangles with his own life…like the fact that the murdered man’s son—and a main suspect—is currently dating his own rebellious teenage daughter.

He made a promise to do the right thing. But keep­ing promises may be what led to murder . . .

Click on the cover to visit the book's Amazon page.


JRVogt said...

Thanks for sharing this, Janet!

Wendy said...

Janet, thanks for taking time to write this. I love all the advice you give over at your blog. (Writers, if you don't read Janet's blog YOU MUST. You're missing out.)

I'm always amazed when flash fiction writers can shoehorn a whole world, and whole lives into such a small space. It's a crazy, wonderful talent.

Kimberly King said...

Thanks for this great advice! I guess lots of people get caught up thinking that more is always better.

Stacy said...

Thanks, Janet!