Another 25 Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected

Some time ago I posted the first 25 reasons. Here are more tips from the Surrey, B.C. Writers Conference. Each year agents and publishers conduct an exercise, where they read aloud the first pages of writers' submissions to see how far they would read before it would be rejected. Here is a list of reasons for rejection, courtesy of Anne Mini, Author!Author! 

26. When the first lines are dialogue, the speaker is not identified.
27. The book opened with a flashback, rather than what was going on now.
28. Too many long asides slowed down the action of an otherwise exciting scene.
29. Descriptive asides pulled the reader out of the conflict of the scene.
30. Overuse of dialogue, in the name of realism.
31. Real life incidents are not always believable.
32. Where’s the conflict?
33. Agent can’t identify with the conflict shown.
34. Confusing.
35. The story is not exciting.
36. The story is boring (yes, they did differentiate between this and the one before it.)
37. The story is corny.
38. Repetition on pg. 1 (!)
39. Too many generalities.
40. The character shown is too average.
41. The stakes are not high enough for the characters.
42. The opening scene is too violent (in the example that generated this response, a baby’s brains were bashed out against a tree).
43. Too gross.
44. There is too much violence to children and/or pets.
45. It is unclear whether the narrator is alive or dead.
 46. The story is written in the second person, which is hard to maintain.
47. The story is written in the first person plural, which is almost as hard to maintain.
48. The narrator speaks directly to the reader (“I should warn you…”), making the story hyper-aware of itself qua story.
49. The narration is in a kid’s voice that does not come across as age-appropriate.
50. An adult book that has a teenage protagonist in the opening scene is often assumed to be YA.

Has anyone received any other reasons for rejection?

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.     


Karen Cioffi said...

Heidi, this is a great list of what to look for when writing a story. Do you have the link to 1-25?

Most of my rejections have been generic, but I did receive one from a publisher or editor (can't remember now) who said they had a similar storyline and mine was poorly written. That story went on to win the Children's Literary Classics 2012 Silver Award.

The point is not to let negative input stop you. If you can learn from it, learn and apply, otherwise just keep on submitting.

Magdalena Ball said...

Heidi, this is an excellent editing checklist to go through before sending out. Thanks for posting it.

Heidiwriter said...

Karen, The link to the entire list is at the top of the post: just click on Anne Mini, Author!Author!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great list Heidi. I think it's a gift any time an editor tells you why it doesn't work.

Margaret Fieland said...

Heidi, great list. I knew I'd improved when I started getting rejections with comments. A comment from an editor is a huge gift.

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