Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reasons for Rejection of a Partial

Since my current contest theme is writing and submitting, I thought I'd do a post on some of the most common reasons your partial might be rejected by an agent or editor. Or what to watch out for when polishing up your manuscript for submission.

Although I generally prefer to focus on the positive in this blog, (unlike WiDo's crabby managing editor Kristine Princevalle), I'll take a page from her book and tell you what doesn't work.


Not a clear demographic. Like this: Opens with an adult main character, brings in an adolescent dealing with YA issues, switches back to adult themes like infertility, while inserting a side story about ice cream.  Who will read this? Who is the demographic?

Weak voice. This will kill a ms. fast. A weak voice is the sign of a weak writer. How to strengthen your voice? Read lots. Write lots. And work outside your creative writing, like journaling, letter-writing, blogging to help strengthen and define your voice.

Boring. This has more to do with writing style and craft than it does subject matter and plot line. Again, I'll borrow from Kristine Princevalle. Here's a brief example she used in a post. Being a huge fan of Agatha Christie, I love this. A brilliant writer can write on a completely mundane topic and make it fascinating; a poor writer can write on a completely fascinating topic and make it mundane.

Makes no sense. Clear, concise writing is valuable and sought after. The meaning must be clear to the reader. The narrative must flow seamlessly from one scene to another, without jarring juxtaposition of words and phrases, or distracting sidelines that have nothing to do with anything. Nothing must interfere with the reader's enjoyment of the story.

Point of view switches. Frequent POV lapses, or even worse-- POV that's all over the place-- are the sign of an amateurish, inexperienced writer. If this shows up in your partial, there won't be a request for a full.

Telling, telling, telling. We've heard this a million times-- show don't tell. It's fairly simple. Telling means author tells the reader what happened or what the MC is thinking or feeling. Showing means you write a scene, with dialogue, action and stuff. If you're getting rejected a lot, try an experiment. Go through your ms. and leave only the dialogue. See what's left of 50,000 words. That might give you a clue.

Too many characters. Introduce your characters judiciously, letting the reader get to know them gradually. Don't throw everyone into the first chapter.

Poorly edited. Anything that looks like too much work for the editor will get rejected.

Preaching and Politics. Characters can be diverse and have opinions, but if the author goes overboard making the reader feel preached to, the love affair is over. People read fiction for entertainment and enjoyment, not to be a captive audience for the writer's soapbox.

These are a few of the most common reasons for rejection. There's a million more. Just a few things to think about as you polish your submissions for this week's Lettuce Write contest. Remember, you have until August 21 to submit, so get writing and good luck to all!

42 comments:

  1. What great points. I think I will blog this about this on Friday.

    CD

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  2. Useful information. I am going to look at my submission query again. Thanks.

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  3. It scares me how often I'm guilty of all of the above. lol. Great post with great advice.

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  4. These are good points, Karen. Thanks for posting this and reminding everyone of what not to do.

    Jai

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  5. Great list. It's a good reminder that working on the craft of writing is so important.

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  6. All good points. Thanks for the post, and thanks for hopping over to my blog :)

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  7. Good list of things to keep in mind before you start sending your ms out. Never hurts to double- and triple-check all of these areas. :)

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  8. Lots of things to take under advisement here Karen. Thanks.

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  9. Great list Karen! It's good to have a check list like this. :)

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  10. Thank you lovely KarenG!! This has come at a brilliant time for me. I got my course results back for my chapters and now I need to get down n dirty!! And i really need these pointers! thank you! I'm off to print them now - hope you don't mind!

    Good luck to all those entering your fab competion!!

    Take care
    x

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  11. great stuff, Karen! And I'm looking forward to entering your contest--Thanks for that~ :o)

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  12. Great advice, Karen! I think, while I love focusing on the positive, we can always use a couple checklists on what to avoid.

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  13. Such a great and very needed reminder for all of us. Thanks, Karen!

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  14. Great list! And to the point. I admit sometimes I feel like I'll never get over the stage of telling too much. *sigh*

    Have a great night!

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  15. Very useful post, Karen. Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

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  16. Every writer should read this post and apply it, accordingly, to their own manuscripts. Kudos.

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  17. Thanks for the post, the list is v useful to have, esp re pov!

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  18. Great list, Karen. Certainly helps when you a rejection of a partial without an explanation.

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  19. Just what I needed, as I stare down the submission gauntlet! :)

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  20. What a thorough list. When I first wrote, I had problems with tell instead of show. I got so much better. Maybe too good. My critique group told me they needed more thoughts from my MC. I added more, but hope I didn't go overboard. I'll wait for some feedback.

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  21. Great points to remember! I know when I first started writing my POV was all over the place. I have a giggle when I read some of my old stuff.

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  22. Ah, I learned these tips within just a few months after attending a couple of writer's conferences. I'm so glad I went because it's such helpful advice for the novice. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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  23. Great post! You point out some good stuff here. :-)

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  24. These are all great points when developing a manuscript. Yeah, boring is a real query killer for sure LOL!

    Stephen Tremp

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  25. Great list, Karen! I worry about query letters turning off editors or agents. Several years ago rhetorical questions were acceptical, now they are a no no...

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  26. I did actually mean to say a little more but I hit the post button instead of the enter key. Go figure :-)

    What I meant to add was that his sort of list is absolutely useful for someone who is at all unsure about querying.

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  27. Great points! Thanks for an informative post.

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  28. So helpful. Thank you so much!

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  29. These are great tips - not just as a way of improving a rejected partial, but as a checklist for the late draft or editing process. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  30. Hi Karen, thanks for the informative post. I'm preparing to enter the query process soon and advice like yours is invaluable.

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  31. Great post, Karen. Thanks for this. :)

    Amy

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  32. Well ain't that right!

    What the eds don't tell you? :o They've filed your premise for a big rainy publisher day. The day they need to kick a favored author butt coz that author can't come up with a half decent plot, the day the editor talks sweet saying wel how about a girl who... Beware sending premise straight to a publisher. Get you an agent!

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