Miss Snark - all knowing goddess of agent-speak,

I need your translation on a rejection response. After a 50 pg read, he responds, "It's an interesting story but it seems to need some added energy with the execution." He goes on to refer a "private editor" to work with.

My novel has already been through 2 writers' groups and a professional copy-editor. Under your orders to not harass agents, I am suppressing the nearly overwhelming urge to harangue him for specifics. So, in an attempt to pinpoint what needs work, I bother you.

Does "execution" typically refer to the writing style, the structure, or the falling blade of a guillotine on my hopes???

This is why God invented the crapometer---hereafter abbreviated as TIWGIC (not to be confused with NITWIT which is why God invented shredders).

If I said something needed energy I'd be talking about the language but that's just me.

We're less than 60 days out from the Crapometer. Try not to unhinge yourself till then


Eika said...

Anyone else notice the agent REFFERRED an editor? Don't trust that agent!

sundae best said...

"This is why God invented the crapometer..."

This poignantly simple comment confirms what I've suspected all along - Miss Snark *is* God.

(bowing and scraping) We're not worthy!

Martha O'Connor said...

The referral to the editor is a HUGE red flag.

Isn't that against the AAR code of ethics?

Anonymous said...

Anyone else notice the agent REFFERRED an editor? Don't trust that agent!

Hmm, yes; my eyebrow also became gravitationally-challenged after reading that.

Check out the agent on Preditors and Editors, and even if you don't find any warnings about him, be very wary. An ethical agent shouldn't be suggesting an editor to you by name. That smells of a potential kick-back scheme.

shelby said...

Yep eika, that's the first thing that jumped out at me. Run Forrest, Run!

Verification word: nkeeegjj--now there's a word that needs more energy.

Akuseru said...

Eika, that was the first thing that I noticed.

To the person who asked this question: If I was the one talking about execution, I would be specifically talking about the way that the story was written. Without having seen the piece in question, I can't tell you if he's totally off-base or not. However, I don't like the fact that he referred you to a private editor (from the sound of it, he named a specific one...). There's other fish in the sea. Go for one of them.

Anonymous said...

Considering your ms has been seen by a critique group and copy editor, I would NOT worry about this agent's input. It's one person's opinion.

If several agents suggeest your ms needs more energy, then it may be time to revisit the story. It could be the style is a bit flat, the storyline needs more conflict, or the pace needs some tightening.

I've heard of reputable agents suggesting the assistance of an editor--but in general terms. The agent doesn't say, "Talk to my friend, Joe Schmoe, Editor."

In the future, check out P&E, and the Absolute Write board under Bewares & Background Checks.

PicAxe said...

Miss Snark is undoubtedly right--when is she not? Your problem might be in language and your use of same. Have you checked your verbs, qualifers, and tenses? Have you varied your sentence structure? Those are places to start.

And then there's our love of language itself, a condition that too often leads to severe Worditis and chronic unsaleability.

Nothing takes the spark out of a literary plug like too many words.


Termagant 2 said...

I'm not sure the Almighty Crapometer would spot "lack of energy" though--it's SO subjective, even more than we usually see in "no-thanks" commentary.

I'd ignore the "editor referral" junk and simply send it elsewhere, where ya never know, someone might fall mightily in love with it.

My $0.02,

Maya said...

The writer didn't say that the agent referred to a specific editor by name. S/he said the agent referred to a "private editor."

I agree; if the agent referred to a specific editor by name, I'd be concerned. If the agent simply recommended using a private editor, I'd feel differently.

The reference to needing added energy makes me think more of pacing than anything. Is it possible that the book gets off to a slow start?

Steve Prosapio said...

I'm certain that the agent is well-known and reputable. I'm still researching the editor. I always heard that if an agent thought the story/writing had potential, they’d help fix the minor points. I don't want to sound like every other rejected writer (but I will). I've already worked with an experienced, professional copyeditor and my writing is NOT that bad. Honest. Even my mom...

Talia Mana, Centre for Emotional Well-Being said...

Question: Why was I rejected?

Answer: He's just not that into you!!!

Sorry, couldn't resist paraphrasing that famous book. Finding an agent is a bit like dating. S/he has to love you and your book as much as you love him/her. Unrequited love is painful - review your book then move on LOL

If you get rejected and you know the work has been critiqued by qualified people, it's not a match made in heaven so move on to greener pastures.

Also I agree with others. The suggestion of a private editor may have been intended to be helpful but it might also suggest that the agent is getting a kickback, so check Preditors & Editors (see above) or go to absolutewrite.com/forum

Anonymous said...

How does the crapometer work? Where does one submit to it?

I'm sure the regulars know about it, but I'm just signing on and I'm curious. I've seen two references to it, so I wondered.

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, for me "added energy with the execution" reads as "the pace is too slow", or maybe "nothing happens for pages and pages".

Diana Peterfreund said...

Yes, referring particular editors is a red flag. Saying, "Have you considered a private editor?" is not.

If I said soemthing neeed energy in the execution I'd mean that the pacing was slow or the storyline was boring. Pump it up.

Lorra said...

I agree with Eika and Shelby: if you were "referred" to an editor, you should forget about that agent.

Also might want to check the agent out on Preditors and Editors and email Victoria Strauss over at the Writers Beware Blog. I think if you google it, you'll find the blog.

And, Good Luck!

Lorra said...

Just looked it up: the writer beware website is:


Hope this helps.

Elektra said...

Maybe it wasn't a referral to a specific editor, but rather that he recommended an editor in general.

Dave Kuzminski said...

If you will, whoever the writer is, please share that agent's email by forwarding it to me at P&E.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the poster meant that the agent named an editor, (did you?) I think he suggested he seek an edit.
There is a huge difference.

Mark said...

The impression I got was the agent recommended a private editor. As Dave suggests, this is a dead give-away. Off with his or her head.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous that asked about crap o meter... The crap o meter is a writing challenge that Miss Snark dangles out there about twice a year. She will look at the first couple of pages of your work and give you a fair critique. It's invaluable! This December she is going to have a crap o meter. We are going to submit book jacket copy and then the entries will be voted on. Whoever gets the 'go' will be allowed to participate in this December's crap o meter. Good luck! Anywone fill me in if I've got all of this wrong! lol

Simon Haynes said...

Surely a copy editor isn't the same as a structural editor? A copy editor checks for consistency within your novel, and has nothing to do with editing for plot, pace or readability.
Someone slap me down if I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, but if I was a dodgy agent and part of my scam was to refer people to an "editor", I'd make sure to give the writer feedback they couldn't make head nor tail of, just to convince them that they needed the editor. Just a thought.

bill e. goat said...

I'm available for knew clyants. I profide editing survices for a small fee. Mi fee is usually a sack of sweet corn, some dried leaves and a stetson of my own. I chooed up the last one. I kneed a knew won.

Contact me at WilliamEGoatAgency@cutegoatfella.com

Malia said...

Um, no is no. Get over it, move on.

My eyebrow lifted, too, on that editor referral.

Execution is your voice, your style, the pace, everything! It's how you tell the story. "It's all in the execution" is Leslie Wainger's favorite saying and a motto which I have pasted above my desk.

Kate_the_Viking said...

Try other agents. This one's not the way you want to go. That editor referral is a big red flag.

Take that comment on "more energy" to your writer's groups, or even to the Hallowed Crapometer, and get your feedback from them, not the "private editor".

Anonymous said...

You say your novel has already been through two writer's groups -- but did you really listen to what they had to say? I've been in groups with writers who only hear what they want to hear. After awhile I stopped working so hard on their critiques. If you kept them, you might want to pull out those old comments. Look for common threads -- especially any that hint at the same thing this agent did.

BuffySquirrel said...

I think Simon's right--a copyeditor specifically checks grammar, spelling and sometimes consistency (why is the protag John on pages 1-32 but Jon thereafter, for example), but it isn't their job to fix pacing, structural or other issues. If your sentence is ungrammatical they'll fix that; if it's uninteresting, they won't. They might go so far as to pick up action slips and the like. Writing can be perfect in terms of spelling and grammar and still not be publishable.

As for writers' groups...well, I know a lot of people here are fans, including Miss Snark, but in my experience most groups consist of the blind leading the blind off a cliff.

The best advice is probably to carry on querying while working to improve your writing at the same time.

Diana Peterfreund said...

I'd make sure to give the writer feedback they couldn't make head nor tail of, just to convince them that they needed the editor.

Yeah, but most people can't make heads or tails of rejection letters. Deciphering them is usually a waste of time anyway, As another poster said: no means no.

type, monkey, type said...

Actually, probably the best advice is to keep sending this one out as is while you write your next. I know you always hear that, but the truth is, if your problem truly is something as vague as "execution," there is probably zero chance you can fix it in revision. But in my experience, your execution (that thing we can't put our finger on) improves drastically between one novel and the next. Put your energy there while you shop this one around. Because in a year you could have something really awesome.

Simon Haynes said...

I've wasted too much time on critiques where the author later argued the toss on every one of my comments, beating me down or explaining why I just didn't get it until they 'won'.
I've also seen people ask others to 'rip their work apart' on internet forums, only to lash out at those daft enough to oblige.
I'm not suggesting for one minute that's the case with the original poster, I'm just pointing out why critique groups are useful to some and not to others.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

please consider sending a few pages to http://crapometer.blogspot.com.

We'll tell you what we think and WHY.

Other than that, keep sending it out.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Over on her blog, Cyn has a post about immediate excitement, exploding whositz and fire works, versus world building in Fantasy Fiction.

I have sympathies for both views. You need to reach a happy medium between establishing your world and zip, zam, zowie. A good question to ask yourself is, "Would I read my own story."

That can be a hard question to answer. It is your story, and sometimes writers see their words the same way the see their children. But, if your story is boring to you, if you find yourself shrugging off bits here and there with the thought "well, that's not that bad," then you need to make major changes.

Ask yourself how much of your chapter 1 is really essential to your story. If it isn't important, leave it out.

I haven't been commenting over on the crapometer for a while, but it is a good place to post. Oh, that reads as if my comments over there are essential to your well-being. That's not what I meant. All I mean is, I haven't abandoned the group; I'm just not commenting right now. It's a good group whether I post or not.

You will get nonsense comments, but you will also receive some excellent advice.


To submit: Crapometer@gmail.com

Elektra said...

Oh, goodness--I feel as if I should treat a goat to Starbucks (which makes a lot more sense--though still probably not enough--if you know Betsy's other Blogger name...)