Sunday, July 8, 2012

Why Your Submissions are Rejected

Here are the top fifteen reasons agents and publishers reject our submissions. Provided by Anne Mini, from the 2006 Surrey, B.C. writers conference. Check her blog for more reasons and explanations.

1. An opening image that did not work.

2.Opened with rhetorical question(s).

3. The first line is about setting, not about story.

4. The first line’s hook did not work, because it was not tied to the plot or the conflict of the opening scene.

5. The first line’s hook did not work, because it was an image, rather than something that was happening in the scene.

6. Took too long for anything to happen (a critique, incidentally, leveled several times at a submission after only the first paragraph had been read); the story taking time to warm up.

7. Not enough happens on page 1

8. The opening sounded like an ad for the book or a recap of the pitch, rather than getting the reader into the story.

9. The opening contained the phrases, “My name is…” and/or “My age is..."

10. The opening contained the phrase, “This can’t be happening.”

11. The opening contained the phrase or implication, “And then I woke up.”

12. The opening paragraph contained too much jargon

13. The opening contained one or more clichéd phrases.

14. The opening contained one or more clichéd pieces of material. (The most I counted in a single submission was 5.) Specifically singled out: a character’s long red or blonde hair.

15. The opening had a character do something that characters only do in books, not real life. Specifically singled out: a character who shakes her head to clear an image, “He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.”

Have any of you received anything similar or different reasons? 

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A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.  

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the terrific list. Now I'm off to contemplate the opening lines in my current work-in-progress.

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  2. Great list of things to avoid in your opening. A good thing to keep handy when trying to lure a publisher.

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  3. Thanks for the terrific to the point tips! I agree with Terri, good to keep handy.

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  4. thanks - I just got rejected - so I am going to check my 1st chapter for all of these!

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  5. It all boils down to the very beginning! Great list of pointers and what to look out for. And, yes, I agree also, it's good to keep handy. Thanks for sharing.

    Angie, don't feel bad, it happens to us all. But, it's a wise move to check your manuscript against the list above.

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