Getting to the point…

The last few days on Absolute Write I’ve noticed something that’s started to annoy me.

I don’t read every single post there.  It’s active enough that I could probably just sit in front of my computer all day and read posts if I did that.  So, I use the preview feature.

You can hover over the subject line and see the first few lines of a post to see if it’s interesting enough to read.  But I’d say that about half the time the poster “wastes” those first few lines with some sort of inane intro that has nothing to do with the post they’re making.

So, I see a post that says, “Grammar Issue.  Help!”  And then I hover over the post to see what the question is and find, “Yeah, I know, I could probably look this up somewhere, but ya know, I thought I’d come to all you fine folks to….”

Which means I now have to decide whether I really want to click on a link to a question about grammar from someone who babbles a bit and who may be asking a question I don’t really care about.  Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

I’d be much more likely to read and respond to a post if the post were focused from the beginning.

For example: “Grammar Issue – three year’s salary or three years’ salary?” followed by “Please help.  I can’t decide whether “three year’s salary” or “three years’ salary” is the right usage.”

And then, if the poster really felt like it they could follow-up with all the “I know I could’ve looked elsewhere, but…”  (Which at that point they’ll probably realize is unnecessary.)

I realize this comes down to communication style a lot of times and I’m on the “get to the point” end of the spectrum most of the time.  But, I would really love to see people be tight in their writing even in forum posts.

And because I’m in the midst of crafting my query, let me extrapolate this to the query process.  (So this blog post can be about more than my personal issues…)

Chances are that the editor or agent who reads a query is only going to see the first few lines before they have to decide whether to open the e-mail and continue reading or ditch it now.

I use Outlook for work and I have a preview pane on my e-mail that lets me see about the first four or five lines.  When I used to be a slave to the blackberry (thankfully no more), it was more like three lines before I had to scroll.  My iPhone shows two lines of text (although it can be set for up to five).

So, at least for me, no matter where I’m reading things, I decide whether to continue based upon that first snippet.

Which means that if agents or editors do the same, you need to start strong.


“I know you don’t normally represent YA novels, but I think you’ll make an exception for….”


“When Lindsay wakes up naked and alone in the woods, her hands covered in blood she doesn’t….”

Those could be from the same query.  But the agent/editor will probably keep reading the second one long enough to get hooked on the idea before they learn that it’s something they don’t normally rep.

Bottom line.  If you get to the point right away you have a much better chance of snagging someone’s attention.  Be it in a forum post, blog post, query, or book.

(Hmm.  Perhaps I should incorporate that lesson into my own writing…signs off to go stare at draft query letter.)

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to Getting to the point…

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    I have noticed the same issue, and am working to keep it out of my work (I am not certain I am there yet).

    I believe it stems at least partly from a desire to be polite; we want to show the listener/reader that we value them before we take up their time, but do not instinctively include the extra time the fluffing takes up – even if we intellectually know it is a burden.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Yeah, same here. I’m pretty sure I’m not there yet on half the issues I’ve actually identified in my writing. But, as they used to say on G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.”

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