Friday, August 19, 2011

Trends for the Untrendy: Prologue to Rejection?

I have included my post on prologues in the trends for the untrendy series because in my humble opinion, prologues are not bad writing if done well, but prologues seem to have fallen out of style.  Personally, I wish this wasn't so.  Currently, I am working on a re-write of Stormland, and was excited to start fresh.  This time I would do everything right.  I had learned all the things that agents hate and would do none of them.  The prologue was one of the first things on my kill list.  But no matter how many ways I tried to unprologue my story, it just doesn't feel right without one.  I have written a different prologue with this draft, but it's still there, waiting to annoy an agent.  So what's the verdict, should I chunk it because it's uncool or leave it in and hope for the best?  Undecided.  Here is what other people are saying about the prologue:

Prologue Hating Agents:

Natalie Fischer describes her feelings in a none too subtle blog post, Why I Hate Prologues.  If that wasn't clear enough for you, she also suggests cutting the prologue in her post Ponder, Polish, Perfect: How to Successfully Revise.

Sarah LaPolla discusses her "deep hatred of prologues" in My Inevitable Prologue Post.

Prologue Skipping Agents:

Vickie Motter is an admitted prologue-skipper but she'll read on and give your submission a chance.  She offers a helpful post about the do's and don'ts.  She says here that an "insta-no" is, "A prologue that is excessively long or I don't think is necessary; I'll try to skip ahead to the first chapter to give it a fair chance, but your prologue should be just as well written as the rest and if I'm in a hurry or super slammed with partials, I won't get that far."

Suzie Townsend says that prologues are often boring and she skips them, but gives an example of a prologue that she enjoyed.

Prologue Ambivalent Agents:

John Rudolph - "I’m really getting tired of the vague prologue that drops hints that something dangerous or mysterious is going to happen but doesn’t really give you any clue what the book is about."

Authors Opinions:

Former agent Nathan Bransford has several posts on prologues which give sensible advice that isn't overly biased either way.  Prologues  Can I Get a Ruling: How Do We Feel About Prologues?

Romance writer Lynette Labelle explains that whether or not prologue may depend on the genre.

Renee Harrell talks about fighting for their prologue.

Nikki Katz is a prologue supporter.

Heather McCorkle talks about the conflicting advice she's gotten about her prologue and concludes that, "You must stay true to your vision for your novel."

Author Cara Lynn James says her editor actually suggested adding a prologue.

Marlena Cassidy shares my confusion about why people hate prologues but warns against clever tricks to hook readers.

Nathan Bransford completed an opinion poll about prologues and 70% of people thought the value of a prologue depends simply on how good the prologue is.  That is my opinion, and it I feel that it is quite sensible, however I suspect that it's not that simple.  A prologue, especially a well-written one, is not likely to destroy your chances of publication if the rest of your story is good...but it won't make it any easier.  Isn't getting published hard enough as it is?

My advice is to avoid the prologue if your story can do without it.  Don't give agents any reason to reject you.  With all that said, if your story feels right with a prologue, leave it in.  The bottom line is that not following your gut never seems like good advice.  Besides, what's cooler than being too cool to follow a trend?  ;)  Just make sure your prologue is stellar and absolutely adds value to the story. If you chose to prologue, either avoid the prologue haters or design a special draft sans prologue to send to haters.

Want to weigh in on the prologue?


  1. Hmm, seems like my earlier comment was eaten.

    This post is extremely helpful, especially the links to agents' blogs. It's always important to know who wants what in their submissions and who refuses to read prologues and such. And the reasons behind it too. It can help with writing and perfecting manuscripts.

    If you want to read more about prologues, Sharon, Bird's-eye View is hosting a Q&A about prologues on September 6th.

  2. Thanks for the tip Marlena! I'll definitely have to check out on the 6th!

  3. Sharon, I was delighted to read this, as it fits in so well with the recent conversations on Bird's-eye View about the role of prologues. I never guessed this was such a controversial topic!

    Marlena Cassidy ( has prepared a great post about the topic that is scheduled for Sept. 6, and I've just added the link to your post to the references section of the article. Thank you again for always having the best information out there!

  4. I love how detailed you are... the links are extra fabulous. I'm not one to read a prologue, and normally if I see one in a book I skip it. That doesn't mean I skip it every time, but most of the time.

    I suppose that's my view!

    Love your blog!!!! Definitely coming back :)

  5. Michelle - I'm looking forward to your prologue topic! Thanks for including my link.

    Jen - Thank you for the feedback and thank you for checking out my blog!

  6. Hi Sharon, I found your blog through Laura B writer as apparently you hit the 100th score. So congrats on that! Your post is very interesting. I'll check the links. Usually I don't notice those things but it must have taken you some time to do the research and link every blog agents. I am impressed by that. I'll defo come back.

  7. I'm a fan of prologues myself. I don't get the hate. I agree that the prologue should be just as strong as the rest of the book and not overly long, but serve as a taste to what's coming. Thanks so much for following me!

    I gave you a shout-out on my blog! :)

  8. Wow! That's quite the list! That must've taken you forever to compile. Thank you for that! I can take or leave a prologue. I guess I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other on READING them, but I don't write them purely because of the prologue hate. :)

  9. I had no idea agents hate prologues so much. In my first manuscript I had to write it despite not wanting to, because it was necessary, as the story takes place in flashback. The new book is without one. I personally don't mind reading prologues written beautifully.

    Very helpful post. Thanks!

  10. I agree that if a prologue can go, it should. Still, I love a good prologue! Shakespeare did them best.

  11. What a resourceful post! Thank you for taking the time to put this all together for us. I agree that prologues should go most of the time. I received advice once (I forget the editor's name) who said that if you are an unpublished writer, don't submit a prologue. She implied it would only hinder a newbie's chance at getting published. Not sure if this is true, but with my YA novel I am trying to just make the first chapter the place to begin without the necessity of a prologue.