Are savvy Writers better at writing good Fiction or better at writing formulaic Fiction?

With so much literature on how to break through in publishing and get your book out there, it’s a miracle that still only 1% of all the people who send their manuscripts out to agents and publishers get published the traditional way.
Surely, living in the age of information and easy access, having lists after lists on how to write any kind of book, how to pitch any kind of book, how to submit a manuscript, who to submit it to etc, today’s writer should be savvier about it all.
And some writers indeed are savvier. Some manuscripts I receive for assessment have clearly been edited with a particular editor’s list in mind. For instance, Imogen Cooper’s, from Chicken House. A children’s writer has gone to the extent of “stalking” Imogen Cooper’s list and reading most of it, making endless notes and revising her manuscript “accordingly”. (Shame, I’d say, because, in the process, she cut out a lot of bad language that otherwise would have fitted naturally in the context).
When I write my assessment reports, I am sometimes tempted to add, “this wouldn’t pass with any careful editor”, or “an editor will pick on this and ask you to remove it” or even “your book might get rejected because of x or y.” Unless it’s legal stuff, like, say, age-related inappropriateness in children’s books, I try to refrain myself from saying such enormities.
Because ultimately, the quest is to enhance the reading experience a book offers, not to secure a publishing deal. A publishing deal will naturally follow, if the reading experience is there.
One of my clients has received feedback from an editor saying that she has written “one of the most enjoyable police procedurals read in years.” A few days ago, I have also found out that she has been taken on by one of the most reputable literary agents in the UK, so I am over the moon for her. A mother, a woman going to work every day, “Sorry I’m late with my manuscript, kids have been ill, I’ve increased my work hours.” I thought, “how refreshing to find a complete ‘industry-innocent’ write so incredibly compelling.” I found out recently that she has attended a writing course, so I’m back to square one: do people who have a higher awareness of how the industry works and what the industry wants write genuinely better or simply stand a better chance at getting published?
I hope the answer will lie in my next assignment: a sublime historical novel from a writer who has no frequent access to the internet, doesn’t know the name of any agent and, when asked what he thought about MacMillan New Writing’s historical fiction list as an option, he confessed he has heard of MacMillan. At the same time, I have yet to see a novel that received more research and more thought than this one. This is my hope that I have found a writer who enjoys reading a book without checking the publisher’s statement first.
Opinions always welcome. 

About Lorena Goldsmith

Literary consultant at Daniel Goldsmith Associates.
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One Response to Are savvy Writers better at writing good Fiction or better at writing formulaic Fiction?

  1. Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing.I am too a new writer, looking to be published. I was totally reluctant to avoid formulas while composing my work yet I do follow "recipes" in cold-approaching the literary agents. I'm not sure if it works or not. So far it hasn't. The responses are very slow. I lean to believe that this is not the right approach, although the agents do invite the new authors to send queries via email or by means of SAEs. Do you have any thoughts?

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