What to do when your manuscript is “quiet” (This week in books)

by | Jan 10, 2020 | This Week in Books | 4 comments

Hawaii. Photo by me. Follow me on Instagram!

This week! Books!

The fallout continued from the implosion of Romance Writers of America. Their annual awards, the RITAs, have been canceled this year. They plan to regroup and retroactively issue the awards for both 2019 and 2020 next year.

You haven’t really started going through the submission process until you receive some extremely confusing feedback. For instance, what does… “quiet” mean? How can a manuscript be “quiet?” Agent Tracy Marchini weighs in.

What’s in store for the decade ahead in book publishing? Industry sage Mike Shatzkin sees more and more difficulty breaking out new titles in a big way, more shrinking and consolidation among the big publishers, and more competition from publishing entities (corporations, indie authors) without a strong profit motive.

If you’ve ever read slush, you know how much of a drag it is to read an overly common opening for a novel even when it’s well-executed. Jane Friedman has five to avoid. (And here are my five).

And DIYMFA has five tips on creating a relaxing workspace.

This week in bestsellers

Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):

Adult print and e-book fiction:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  2. The Guardians by John Grisham
  3. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
  4. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
  5. Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Adult print and e-book nonfiction:

  1. Educated by Tara Westover
  2. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
  3. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
  4. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  5. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Young adult hardcover:

  1. Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
  2. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  4. Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis
  5. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Middle grade hardcover:

  1. A Tale of Magic… by Chris Colfer
  2. Ali Cross by James Patterson
  3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  4. The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
  5. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney

This week on the blog

Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:

In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:

Comment! of! the! week! goes to Marilynn Byerly, who shared her experience with character first impressions in romance:

One lesson I learned the hard way is that traditional romance publishers, particularly category romance lines, want a very positive first impression of the heroine in that first scene. My heroine thought of herself as timid yet everything in the first chapter proves otherwise. That timid declaration was the reason the novel was rejected because “we don’t want timid heroines.”

And finally, Key & Peele’s take on wizard schools is really something else:

Have a great weekend!

Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!

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    Nice Hawaii pic, Nathan! Very Christmassy.

    How can a manuscript be quiet? Good question! Particularly if it’s an audio-book…

    Yet MORE numbered lists of writing advice and taboos? As a writer I study them carefully and heed them of possible. As a reader I have no problem with any of them, and indeed would greatly enjoy reading a story that opens with all five! Plus the opening sentence “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    Congratulation to Marilynn Byerly!

    But Nathan, admit it! Like many people, you’re ignoring the Really Big Issue Of The Moment. The GREAT TUMBLEWEED APOCALYPSE is upon us! Run for your lives!

  2. SJ

    Okay the workspace advice, ha. Stacks of dishes at the writing desk. What? Seriously, wash the coffee mug.

    And wizards on swiffers! Ah! That’s amazing.

  3. abc

    I love Key & Peele SO MUCH.

    I think I write quiet novels. But I like the idea of quiet. At least I thought I did. I always think of the quiet books as smaller, more character driven stories. Sara Zarr. John Corey Whaley. Even, a bit, John Green. Am I wrong? I guess I’m wrong.

  4. Neil Larkins

    I self-published a YA action-adventure novel in 2004. The first couple lines present the protagonist, a handicapped teen-aged girl, late for class. She is angry because of it, wishes she didn’t have to go to that class, and when she enters it we understand why: The room is in chaos and several new characters, including the teacher are introduced in rapid-fire action.
    There are several dream sequences in the book but they don’t come for several chapters. Close to the end of the story, my protagonist wakes up and thinks everything that happened was just a bizarre dream. But this is no cliched ending. When she goes to breakfast and her mother says something to her, she realizes it was not a dream at all.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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