Presence on the Page: What It Is, and What It Isn’t

SasquatchAcquisitions editors will tell you that, beyond a solid command of craft and a good yarn, what they’re looking for is this ineffable something known as presence on the page—a literary critter so elusive, so infrequently and sketchily described, it might as well be Sasquatch.

What is this beast so many editors spend their days in search of? And why is it so critical to your chances of publication?

Longtime editor Dawn Raffel explains it this way:

Too often, writers fear that in order to get attention in an over-stimulated world, they need to open with a car crash, a zombie apocalypse, an explosion of expletives, an alternate universe, or prose that turns cartwheels on the ceiling. It’s not that those things can’t work, but they’re certainly not necessary, and unless they’re done exceedingly well, they backfire. What the editor is really looking for is presence on the page—a feeling that you, the author, are in control; that you have a deep respect for language and a well-made sentence, no matter how plain or ornate; that something is at stake; and that in addition to whatever plot you are hatching, you can create friction in the simple act of rubbing two sentences up against each other.

Read the rest of this mont’s post over here, at Litreactor!



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