1. Turniphead
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    Turniphead Member

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    Agent rejection email. Exposition?

    Discussion in 'Publisher Discussion' started by Turniphead, May 25, 2015.

    Hi this is a rejection email from a top uk agent. What exactly does she mean by exposition? I've tried to find about it on the net, but I'm a bit lost. Seems to be the show not tell nonsense - but I'm not sure.
    Any feedback on this most welcomed.

    Is this rejection positive in any way?

    :(

    Dan



    Dear Dan,


    Many thanks for sending me your manuscript, which I read with interest – and thank you for your patience whilst I considered it. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel passionately enough about Envy and the Veil to offer representation. I felt there was slightly too much exposition and your narrative wasn’t as streamlined as I had hoped. Unfortunately, this meant I didn’t really engage with your characters as I didn’t feel that their characterization came through clearly enough. Although I think there is still work to be done, your tone of voice is readable and I thought your dialogue was well-written. Our business is subjective by nature and another agent may well feel differently – I wish you the best of luck with that.


    All best,

    Juliet
     
  2. Woof
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    Woof Contributing Member

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    I would take that to mean you're explaining too much and/or possibly dumping too much information in summary, rather than letting it be told by the characters' actions and interaction.

    It doesn't sound too bad a rejection to me though. It's basically saying that they think you need to work on it some more. They've led with the negatives and closed with the positives, but that is to be expected seeing as they've rejected your manuscript. They may also have a point; if what this agent feels confident selling is deep character-driven literature, for instance, and what you've submitted is more genre-fiction, then maybe you have tried the wrong person.

    Either way, it's great they've taken the time to respond to you personally.
     
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  3. Turniphead
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    Turniphead Member

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    Thanks for your response to this. Seems like what you're saying makes sense.

    Dan
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd read it the same way @Woof did - too much explanation. Something to work on!
     
  5. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    She says 'streamlined' - she's scanning the draft, sees clauses could be tighter, prettier? Draft on. There's maybe a suggestion you're three months away from 'going again' somewhere else.
    /
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Congratulations on not getting the standard boilerplate.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The structure of your writing might need improvement too, since the agent mentioned your work wasn't streamlined enough, which I take to mean that the progression/transition of events and scenes may not be as smooth as it should have been, perhaps a little meandering at times or illogical.

    I wouldn't call the principle of "show, don't tell" nonsense. Perhaps that's why you ended up with too much exposition, because you see "show, don't tell" as nonsense? Of course there's a time and place for both show and tell, but in your case it seems the agent is saying you "tell" a little too much.
     
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  8. Turniphead
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    Turniphead Member

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    Thx for all your replies - v helpful thx. I agree with the poster who said not buying into show tell stuff / I think writers are becoming too obsessed with it - a big of tell is fine. I think exposition has such a wide meaning, it would be hard to adress issues based on such a generalisation.
     
  9. Phil Partington
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    Phil Partington Member

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    What Woof said is exactly right. It's the whole "show vs. tell" balance (and I am NOT one of those fools who thinks showing is always the better way to go. OK, fools is a harsh word).

    A resource for you, if you're interested: https://authorphilpartington.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/show-vs-tell-when-to-tell/

    And another, on showing: https://authorphilpartington.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/show-vs-tell-how-to-show/
     
  10. Turniphead
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    Turniphead Member

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    I took a look at these - and they were great. It's interesting how sometimes it's hard to know when a writer is showing and when he's telling. Reading Buddha of Suburbia - And there's loads of telling.

    Thx a lot for the articles.
     
  11. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Dwight V. Swain explains the difference between showing and telling in Techniques of the Selling Writer. I know I've mentioned this book a lot, but I'm not related and I have no stake in whether it sells or not; it's just a very good book. In fact, Mr. Swain is no longer with us, so I don't think he has a stake in it, either.

    But kidding aside, have you ever read a book on writing that you just couldn't put down because it was blasting you with what felt like every secret of writing you've ever wanted? That's how I felt reading it the third time through. I won't go into how I felt the first time; suffice to say, I was in ecstasy.

    And one of those secrets was how and when to write exposition as well as how and when not to.
     
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  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    JayG, is that you?

    (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.)
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope. :)
     
  14. Ryan M Pelton
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    Ryan M Pelton Member

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    Probably you are giving too much unwanted information. This means you are dumping those forcefully in the content.
     
  15. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is one of the very best rejection letters I have seen. Take it to heart, go over your work, or better yet, have an experienced editor/writer go over it, if you are too emotionally invested. She gave you a ton of helpful criticism that will make your work better.

    Though after a year you have hopefully done this, sold the work, or given up. If the latter, try again, your work was good enough to get a read, which is an enormously positive thing.
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Basically, I use the tell/show dynamic this way: tell the information the reader needs to know but doesn't need to experience. If they need to know that your POV character did her shopping the day before James's birthday, so you'd just tell the reader that she went shopping on Tuesday. When you're writing the emotional scenes, the pivotal scenes, the scenes where things change—the scenes the reader needs to experience vicariously—then you employ 'showing.' When James dies during his birthday party on Wednesday, you'll probably want the reader to 'be there,' so that's when you'd show the scene as it actually happened.
     
  17. EnginEsq
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    EnginEsq Senior Member

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    Is it possible that when the agent says you're doing to much exposition, it merely means you're not leaving enough to the reader's imagination? For example, are you meticulously describing the appearance of a character, when a few words to give the character personality is all you really need.

    For example, compare:

    Charlotte was a lithe, petite, and energetic brunette, taking after their mother. A professional dancer ...​

    to

    Charlotte was about five-foot-two, with mid-length brown hair and long graceful limbs. She had the brown eyes and upturned nose of her mother, and her mother's figure as well - slim hips, a tight butt, and a modest bust. A professional dancer ...​

    The first description tells you everything important (in my story) about Charlotte's appearance. I'm pretty sure you can create your own image of her from it -- and that image might be more attractive to you than the one the second description might cause you to create.

    So I'd consider the second description too much exposition. While you may sometimes want to paint a picture with your words, I believe you shouldn't do so when a sketch will serve as well.

    Another form of too much exposition is explaining how something does what it does, when what it does is all that matters. That's probably a common error in science fiction.
     
  18. Desertphile
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    Desertphile Member

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    When I think of "exposition" in my writing, I consider song lyrics as a guide. When the writer hits the chief characteristics of a place, a person, an event, or a scene, the reader fills in the details; this keeps the reader's pace, which should be set by the writer, from being interrupted by too much thought. (Hee. Funny.) A reader will fill in details in her mind in an instant, but a writer would need to take up a minute or more of reader's time to fill in details that the reader does not want. A reader will fill in details she wants the scene to have which may be contrary to what the writer would rather have, but the reader will think the writer did it. It's spooky human behavior.

    For example;

    Winter wood piled on the porch
    walnuts scattered on he ground
    wood smoke rising to the sky.
    An old man hurries home from work
    and hugs his wife in a sweat-stained shirt,
    steps through that door to where it's warm inside.

    We don't need to read the old man's thoughts, or motivations, nor dialog, nor what he looks like; we do not need to know about his spouse, what she is wearing, etc. Brief words set the tone, and the reader (or in this case, the listener) does some of the heavy lifting in her head.
     
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