Friday, August 5, 2011

Why Editors Reject Your Manuscript

Yesterday, Angela James, Executive Editor for Carina Press, tweeted comments editors made in her editorial submission rejection reports. (If you're not following Angela James on Twitter, you need to be. She tweets writer's gold.) She tweeted around 40 comments. You can go to #editreport to read the whole stream. I thought I would grab the comments that spoke to me or were repeated the most. Don't you wish form rejections looked like this?
  1. "Feels like a Message Book, & the not subtle, it’s overwhelming the narrative."
  2. "An opportunity for rich, vivid worldbuilding, but it fell flat."
  3. "Passive voice, tense shifts, flat. Not ready for submission."
  4. "The voice is off...trying too hard...doesn’t feel authentic, too much tell."
  5. "Suffering from dialogue that is spoken and then is described in tone and detail with extended speech tags."
  6. "3rd person omniscient, so I feel distant, head-hopping is more jarring than helpfully informative of everyone’s states of mind."
  7. "Tell-y infodump right up front...Redundant info, not engaging."
  8. "The writing just isn’t tight or polished enough, and the voice doesn’t always feel consistent or assured."
  9. "A little slow to get going, doesn’t have quite enough energy or line by line tension."
  10. "(too much) Backstory, a lack of compelling action, and some relationship building that tries too hard."
  11. "Could be considerably shortened...too many scenes do not serve a purpose, contribute neither to character development nor plot."
  12. "X needs to be a more fully developed character in order to make this story really work."
  13. "Opening chapters filled w/dull, daily details that get across sense of pervading discontent but don’t encourage extended reading."
  14. "Love this story’s premise but...dialogue doesn’t sound authentic, there's too much telling vs. showing."
  15. "There was no connection between the two main characters and their interaction did not ring true."
  16. "Overall it was overwritten and I felt...I was slogging through stilted, adverb-laden narrative to get to the story."
  17. "Writing lacks depth. Lots and lots of narrative. Action doesn’t start fast enough. POV wobbles."
  18. "There was an initial promise for deep, intriguing characters. Yet, the author gives away way too much, way too soon."
  19. "Within the first fifty pages, readers have already gone over the same memories, info-dumps, and backstory multiple times."
  20. "Instead filling the narration with telling that distances the reader from achieving any emotional connection."
  21. "First 70 pages were filled with narration, and the little dialogue that appeared read as “as you know, Bob” convos."
  22. "Pace moves too quick, rather than allowing the reader to feel the emotion and heartbreak, the author skims over them."
  23. "The stakes didn't feel big enough to engage me."
Do you feel like a new writer after reading these? I did. I've heard this advice many times but to see it written to agented authors put it in perspective. We all struggle with something and the comments point out the most important elements of a story:
  1. Voice and Style
  2. Characters
  3. Dialogue
  4. Plot
  5. Tension

Your story needs to do all of them well or you'll find yourself in the rejection pile.

I know I need to work on dialogue. How about you? What do you need to work on?


Kay Theodoratus said...

Illuminating. It's enough to send you back to the rewrite board.

Marlena Cassidy said...

I always panic and think I'm telling rather than showing and work myself into a fit of despair. True story.

Backstory tends to sneak in as well under the guise of a first chapter. Definitely need to work on that.

Lady Gwen said...

Too many talking heads in my MS, LOL! That list is a reality check! I think I'll copy it. Thanks!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I looked at #editreport yesterday for the first time and was hooked. I'm definitely following Angela now.

Marlena Cassidy said...

Congratulations, Jenny, Kerrie, and Brooke! I chose all of you as recipients of the Liebster Award! Come pick it up here!

Edna Pontillo said...

Great post. Kay's right - back to the manuscript!

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