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Simon Trewin on Writing a Covering Letter

Once I get through the hyperbole and overblown salesmanship of most covering letters, it is all about my relationship to the prose.

In the case of fiction (which it usually is) I am looking for a voice. Simple as that.

I am not so concerned about plot or setting to begin with – I just want to feel that I am setting off on a journey with a writer who just for one moment or two can grab me, make me forget I am reading a book and who might just might change my perception of the world around me.

A great writer can accomplish all that and more in a paragraph. Think of the opening of Catcher in the Rye or Great Expectations and you are totally drawn in as a reader. If a writer’s prose is bland, derivative or just plain clumsy, then I won’t read beyond the first page. If I get beyond that then I want narrative. Big time.

In a world where we are bombarded with micro-messages, greatest hits and tweet-sized chunks, I am convinced that all we yearn for is to be taken back to those bedtimes when we were nicely tucked up and having a wonderful story being read to us. ‘In the beginning there was a Princess who lived in a castle in the middle of an enchanted forest...’.

So basically if you want me to keep reading your work (and maybe even take it on) I want the simple conditions to be met:

  1. spell my name right
  2. check my website and see that I actually am looking for your kind of writing
  3. write me a letter that makes you sound great but not so arrogant that working with you will be a nightmare
  4. be the creator of sparkling life-changing prose, and
  5. take me on a wonderful journey somewhere with your narrative.

Get it? Got it? Good. Now back to the enchanted wood and the Princess...

Grumpy Old Agent*

*Grumpy Old Agent is Simon Trewin, a literary agent at United Agents. He tweets as @simontrewin.

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