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!