Write on, Wednesday: Can this Manuscript Be Saved?

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By Leslie Lindsay

There are seven reasons a writer gets rejected, at least according to Susan Meier, romance writer of many.  Want to know what they are?

1.  Your story doesn’t fit with our line/publishing house.  As a writer, you will hear this as, “Not right for us.”

2.  There is not enough emotion/action/romance or perhaps too much (especially if you are writing fiction and it comes across as too romance-y).

3.  Bad characters.

4.  Weak story or lack of plot

5.  Poor dialogue

6.  And this one is left blank

7.  So is this one…

(I was frantically taking notes at the Spring Fling Writer’s Conference at the end of April.  We were trying to cram waay too much into this workshop–yet, ironically it was one of my favorite ones I attended.)

As a writer, you have three entry points for the reader to become captivated:

1.  Your scenes–>that all builds pacing and momentum

2.  Your story

3.  Your words–>the tone and how those words build your character

However, a good story does not always equate to a “good book.”  Here’s why:  Your story needs to be interesting, credible, consistent (flow smootly), and be compelling, that is, it needs to have a sense of urgency.

So, what happens when you get rejected from a publisher/agent with one of the seven problems mentioned at the beginning of this article?  Sure, you may crumble the rejection letter into tiny little pieces, cry your eyes out and soothe your weary soul with some chocolate or ice cream, whatever your vice.  After you do all of that, you’ll likely roll up your sleeves again and stare at your computer screen.  (We writers are sort of odd that way).

You have a couple of choices:

  • Ditch the work altogether
  • Ask yourself, “Do I want to write for ____ publishing house?  Or, is this the story of my heart?”
  • Start over
  • If you choose to start over, you must change your work based on their rejection letter.  They dont’ want the same thing back, but they also don’t want to ruin your dream.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Go back to your computer.  Turn the thing on.  Find the file.  Copy and Paste it so you make a new document.  Re-name it “Sent to _____ (agent/pub. house) on ____.”
  2.  Read a printed copy of that entire manuscript fast and furious. This is your way of getting the agent/editor’s perspective.  (Remember, they are just looking at the first few paragraphs, maybe pages if you are lucky before tossing it aside). 
  3. Mark it up with Post-Its.  Always keep a clean copy. 
  4. Now, write a one paragraph story summary as the manuscript is currently written. 
  5. Do you see what is wrong? 
  6. Maybe not.  So, make a list of 20 that parallels to what the agent/editor *might* be saying is wrong with your work.  The first 5 on your list may be pretty darn obvious.  The next 5 on your list: silly/crazy but keep going.  Force yourself to come up with 20 reasons why this book is not “good enough” (yet).
  7. Now, speed-read looking for conflict only.  Because, afterall conflict is what makes a story.  (Remember, conflict can be internal or external).

As for the rest…we’ll have to continue next week on Write On, Wednesday!

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