15 Craig Pyette Points to Get Your Novel Accepted by an Editor

Have you ever wanted just to sit down with a senior editor and ask what it is they want? Do your eyes glaze over when yet another query letter is answered with “thanks, but no thanks’?

You’ve worked and worked at your submission, followed all the suggestions given to you and, while you wait for query replies, your non-nails are red and raw with worry.

Self-doubt is your closest companion, so much so that your spouse suggests there isn’t room for all three of you in the marriage bed.

Me, too.

And that’s why I went to a workshop given by Craig Pyette, a senior editor at Random House of Canada Limited, through The Writers’ Community of Durham Region.

I wanted to hear yet another person in the business explain just what is in the elusive pot at the end of the writing rainbow. And more importantly, how writers might reach it. Could I dip in for some goodies?

We writers need these experiences to help us along the way to publication but even knowing there are hundreds of answers to the How do I get published? question, we still keep looking for that one key, that open sesame abracadabra that will make our dreams reality.

Craig Mentioned These Points For Writers To Do:

  1. Keep the voice consistent with each character and his/her sensibilities. A character talking about his didgeridoo would be unbelievable if he has no connection with Australia.
  2. Check to see if the voice of different characters’ chapters is consistent with that character. My Irish-born visitor to Lucy’s farm speaks with an Irish turn of phrase. Lucy, born in Boston to English parents, can not.
  3. Write sentences for impact, ending on the point that really matters. Don’t end with the contextual information in the sentence. Bad: Lucy rammed the rifle into the man’s chest after he had dared to suggest she go with him . Better:  “I’d be glad to take a pretty thing like you with me, you know.”  Lucy rammed the rifle into the man’s chest. “Get off my land!”
  4. Craig says to let him (the reader) slow down and get into the character’s shoes in the first pages. This sets a base for the unfolding of the story.
  5. He wants to see a fresh take on something people care about, indelible characters, a strong voice, a great story, prose that’s up to the task of telling that story, and a writer who has become an authority on his/her subject.

Points For Writers To Avoid:

  1. The reader must not be bewildered. Craig says if he doesn’t get what is happening, probably others won’t either.
  2. Boredom is to be avoided at all cost. If the writer sets up a scene where something great is going to happen and then it doesn’t, the reader is bored and disappointed.
  3. Writers need to avoid explaining their suspense, to decide how much the reader must be kept in suspense, and then follow through. Keep your hand on the throttle, so to speak, with a clear destination in mind.
  4. If an anecdote doesn’t really attach to the story arc, should it be there? Probably not. Would the reader miss it if it weren’t there?
  5. Avoid putting in extraneous material. Boil down to the little moments that actually affect the reader’s reading of your book and the understanding of your story.

Helpful Items For Writers to Consider:

  1. Taste is a big thing in whether your novel is picked up. We all have favorite subjects, writers, places. Editors do, too, and they affect whether a particular editor will be interested in your book.
  2. As do writers and a host of other writing-oriented people, editors learn on the job. They do this by reading and reflecting on great books. I surmise that Craig is suggesting experience, then, is a valuable asset to have in your editor.
  3. First and foremost, it’s about the quality of the writing. That seems to go without saying but I’ve repeated it for its very importance in this discussion.
  4. Most authors need to do research for their subject, whether for historical details or the way to do an oil change. Writers must be careful not to wax eloquently on that research at the expense of the story. Be careful not to let your research show. I found out great detail on how to skin a raccoon and my first draft had it all, but subsequent cutting meant most of that scene was gone. It really didn’t add anything to John’s going off to war.
  5. Great books break rules in a positive manner and that makes them fresh and different.

For the final hours of the workshop we worked on pitch lines. The term ‘elevator pitch’ has more to do with the time it takes to tell someone about your book–and hook them!–than about being on an actual elevator. Here is the pitch I came up with for The Loyalist’s Wife:  “A young Loyalist couple in 1778 New York State meet the challenges of their lives as he goes off to fight for the King and she remains alone on their isolated farm to fight her own war.”

What workshop have you taken which absolutely got you going? Is there a favorite writing guru you follow? Or do you eschew others and follow your own star? Consider leaving a comment below.

Coming Soon! A free giveaway of tips for writers!


23 thoughts on “15 Craig Pyette Points to Get Your Novel Accepted by an Editor

  1. Hi Lady,
    It sounds like it was a fantastic workshop. Thanks for sharing. I took to heart everything you said and have put it in one of my files as a helping aid.

    Thanks once again for sharing. Your articles are always extremely helpful for me, and they come at a time when I can use the information. I will be starting NaNo tomorrow, and I believe this will be helpful as a guideline to keep me from including those words or passages that I do not need.



    • So glad this is helpful to you, Patricia. Once a teacher, always a teacher, and we teachers love to help. Extra thick icing on the cake when someone responds! Good Luck with NaNo. I’ll be waiting to hear about your 50,000 words!


  2. Hi Elaine! Thanks for this great article! While I read it with the intention of gleaning tips on how to get published, it occurred to me that it presents a nice checklist/outline for reviewing books as well. As we help each other out as writers by reviewing books and posting likes, giving specific tips on how to make a story better is vital. Your article offers the perfect focus for constructive criticism and positive, helpful feedback.


    • I wondered if that is the a difference between American and Canadian books. Books for the Canadian market seem to use this technique. My limited experience has shown books for the American market want that action scene right at the beginning. I tried that for my historical but found it didn’t work well so I went back to a better version of what I had done earlier.


  3. Good info. Thanks for sharing it. I had fifty words to use for my pitch on my first book and ten for the front cover hook. I think those were the hardest words I ever wrote.


    • Remember when we had to learn precis in high school? Who knew that skill would be so helpful these many years later in our writing careers? They are absolutely the hardest to write. Thanks for adding that, Deb!


    • Janna, I am so glad you have found valuable ideas here. When I hear a speaker, I only make notes on points which are new to me or which I find particularly useful. Of course, Craig said much more in his day-long workshop!


  4. You always have such informative posts, Elaine. As I read the tip on ending sentences, I was reminded of Margie Lawson who always promotes backloading your sentences with power words. Thanks for the reminder, Elaine.
    I would say both Donald Maass and Margie Lawson were speakers who influenced my writing the most.


  5. Great post, Elaine.

    “…what is in the illusive plot at the end of the writing rainbow.”

    That line alone demonstrates the cadence of your voice. I reread it several times. To the point, I had it memorized.

    I echo Sharon’s recommendations — particularly Margie Lawson. I reference Donald Maass’ books frequently, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend one of his workshops. The points made by Craig Pyette mirror much of what they teach. Especially that little power-house, Margie.


  6. Hi Elaine, I found your article very informative. I will definitely take to heart all the information you shared and will look into workshops that will help get my books ready to meet an editors requirements. Thanks again, Michele


  7. Hi Elaine, excellent information!….just today I was checking out the site for the Writers’ Community of Durham Writers as they had, just this year, featured a workshop with an author I admire Susanna Kearsley. I am planning to check out some of their workshops for the 2013 year!
    The elevator speech is one we are taught to perfect in sales, it really is rather difficult to present yourself in such a short time, but I have to say you did so well with your pitch for your novel The Loyalist’s wife!…nicely done!


    • You are lucky to live closer to them than I do, Carole-Ann. They seem to have a lot going on and I am so glad I met a couple of their members who let me know about events. Thanks for your comments!


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