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  • Jan Flynn

An Agent’s Take, Part 2

Presenting the continuation of last week’s post. Thanks, Ana Manwaring!

Part 2: Revising for Publication

From a talk for Sisters in Crime NorCal by Elizabeth K. Kracht, Literary Agent at Kimberley Cameron and Associates May 14, 2016.


Writing Quality:

  1. Avoid adverbs (5 only. And that’s per piece.)

  2. Avoid clichés

  3. Watch out for repetition

  4. Avoid passive voice: was/were/seem/maybe/perhaps/had been, etc.

  5. Avoid progressive verbs: verb + ing

  6. Cut : suddenly, then and words like just, very, well (and I’m not fond of ‘oh’)

  7. Avoid past tense verbs as dialog tags: she huffed, he scurried, they screamed


Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is the main character too “voice-y”? (sometimes this might look overwritten)

  2. Are your voices genre appropriate?

  3. Is voice making your character unpleasant, mean or generally un-likeable?

  4. Are the character voices distinct?

  5. Is author voice bleeding through into the characters’ voices?

  6. Is the past tense pushing the voice over the top? Eg. Huffed, shouted, stammered, screamed (see attribution)


Is your plot believable?

Aim for a multi-dimensional plot. Exploit your characters for subplots.

Themes: (sometimes called motifs)

Add themes for layering. 3 or 4 themes should run throughout your book.   Make a list of your themes and check your chapters to be sure that 1 or more of the themes is present in each chapter.


  1. Avoid focus on characters that don’t string through the story.

  2. Be sure the main character is sympathetic.

  3. Each character has his or her personal arc.

  4. Make sure the protagonist is sufficiently challenged

  5. Is the setting or the narrator a character?

  6. Are there too many characters?

  7. Stretch character descriptions throughout the entire book, don’t bunch all the describing up at first meeting.

  8. Even characters need to be wary of clichés.


Is dialog your strength?

  1. He said/she said is invisible. Use ‘said’ over other choices.

  2. Only tag if who speaks is unclear.

  3. Do not use adverbial tags: she said emphatically.

  4. Avoid common pleasantries: “Hi, Bob. How are you doing?” “Great Jack. Nice day isn’t it?” This is boring.

  5. Don’t use dialog to “download” or “dump” information.

  6. Use dialog to reveal character.

  7. Go easy on dialect and colloquialisms.

  8. Translate foreign words (with my caveat that constant translating is distracting and some foreign words and phrases should stand, especially where context will point to meaning.~AM)

  9. Use contractions.


Ask yourself: 

  1. Is the backstory necessary?

  2. Is the dialog slowing the pace?

  3. Is there excessive description?

  4. Is the story going off-topic or on tangents?

There’s plenty more to pay attention to during the revision process and Kracht suggests:

Get editorial feedback and proofreading before submitting.

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