Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Writing Wisdom: Laura Rennert

Agent Laura Rennert with author H.B. Moore
Laura Rennert is both an author and agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura represents Maggie Steiver, Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher and Kimberly Dertling, among others.

Laura says that her role as agent is part of a matchmaking process, in which she tries to make the project irresistible to an editor.

She says, “There are five secret ingredients I look for in a project I’m willing to represent: 1. Compelling voice, filled with authenticity; 2. Memorable and dynamic characters who get under my skin and stay with me; 3. Coherent and satisfying narrative structure, where the reader senses that things are happening; 4. Universal and idiosyncratic problems and experiences, wrapped real “world building”; and 5. Literary voice with commercial conception, where a strong question leads to a good premise.

Laura says that even in today’s world, crossover books have characters no older than the summer after high school, and they only crossover from young adult readers to adult, not the other way around, so know where your target audience lives.

She also warns your book shouldn’t be long unless there is a very good reason. In other words, don’t write it long just because you want to. “Learn to murder your darlings if the scene doesn’t move the plot along,” she says.

“Stay in touch with the child or teen within you,” she says. “Voice is the hardest element for anyone to work on with you, so you have to be authentic. If I don’t care about those characters, then no matter how good your plot, I won’t buy it.”

“Don’t write episodic stories,” she adds. “Put your characters at risk, where one event leads them into another situation. The protagonist must take action and make choices under pressure.”

“Find the unusual within the commonplace,” Rennert says. “Give your characters a life beyond the pages of the novel.”

Although she suggests new writers stick with their day job, she also says, “It’s my job to make it so they don’t have to stick with their day job.”

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