Tag Archives: edit

Anatomy of three very similar rejection letters

Recently, a friend of mine asked for some help after receiving two very similar rejections letters. Up until this point, she had received many stock “No thanks” responces, or the dreaded crickets in the email (as in no response at all.)


Every few months, she edited and sent out a new set of queries. Then, after getting a few manuscript requests, she received something different. Yes, still rejections, but two days in a row she received rejections with FEEDBACK. Score!


I looked over the feedback she was sent by three different agents, and realized the reasons for the rejections were very similar.

Without giving her name, or showing the exact rejections, I am going to cut and paste my analysis of those rejections. Even reading this back to myself after I’d written it, gave me ideas to go back and revise things in my own manuscript.

I hope you find this helpful!


Hey you! First of all, YES I believe you read into this correctly. Your writing is so polished that a few people decided you were worthwhile enough to tell you why they decided to pass. So, on that point: CONGRATULATIONS!

All three of these emails confirm that you have an awesome, original concept that they all believe has the power to be a hit. This is the first hurdle everyone needs to overcome. Rock on, girlfriend!

Past this point, you need to prove that the structure and voice are good enough for them to RISK countless hours of their own time to try to sell your work. (Because, hey, if they can’t sell it, they don’t get paid)

Read-hold up PKO_0016876So, this is what I see when I read each email…

#1. “I had a hard time connecting…”

#2. “I didn’t connect with the narrative voice.”

#3. “The narrative wasn’t able to keep me as entranced as the plot would suggest.”

These all said pretty much the same thing, which is AWESOME! Now you know what you need to fix.

“Connection” has to do with VOICE and DEEP POV.

VOICE: You need to ask yourself: Is the voice that I am writing in authentic to my main character? If she is 16, does she sound like a 16 year old? (In spoken word, inner thought, and also in the narrative)Point_of_View2

DEEP POV: Does the overall narrative flow without any bumps that will draw my reader out of the story and remind them they are reading a book? (look for “gentle” show verses tell issues. Look for words like WAS, LOOK, SEE. Check for passive tense.)


Basically, you want to hook the reader on the first page and draw them so deeply into the POV of your character that they can’t get out. They forget they are reading, and all of the sudden it’s 6 hours later and they flip the last page. [[Not that I am an expert at this, but every draft I do gets me closer]]

Now, on comment number three: “The narrative wasn’t able to keep me as entranced as the plot would suggest.”Huh

This could be one of two things. Because of the first two comments, I would guess that the issue is voice and/or deep point of view. HOWEVER… it is also possible that there is a pacing issue.

PACING: Does the book lag anywhere? Are the slow parts just slow enough to let the reader take a breath, or are they so long that the reader gets bored? Can you concatenate the slower chapters to give the required information quickly so you can get back to the good stuff?

“I had a hard time connecting with the way the mystery unfolds.” This could also be pacing, but also ask yourself if there is a “build” in your mystery as each stone is unturned. Is the reader DYING to know whodunit?

I’d look over the manuscript again, thinking about each of these topics INDIVIDUALLY. I think you should only work on one of them at a time. (At least that’s what I do) It helps to keep focused, and gives you less of a chance of missing the opportunity to make a good paragraph GREAT if you are trying to accomplish too many types of edits at the same time.

This is probably the most exciting edit you will ever do… the one where little bells will go off in your head as you see the manuscript come to life. Have fun!

[BTW – just writing this has me thinking about my own manuscript, and a couple of things that I want to look at again, so THANKS for the push!]

So, there you have it. Rejection isn’t always bad. I remind myself that Fire in the Woods was rejected quite a few times, and I’d revised over and over before I received two rejections with feedback similar to above.

My next edit after that feedback got me a three book deal!

Keep submitting, and don’t be afraid to edit some more.




Ashes and Fire2You can find Fire in the Woods and Ashes in the Sky at all these awesome bookish places!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound |

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Lesson Four from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: And Then there was a Conjunction, or Was There?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?


Originally, I was going to skip over this, because I thought it seemed a little obvious.  But then I thought, maybe not.

This publisher simply hated the idea of “and then”.  They said: “And then is not a proper conjunction.  And is a proper conjunction… use for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so which are considered “proper” conjunctions.”

I did a search in my own manuscript, and found 73 instances of “and then”.  Honestly, I was a little surprised to find so many in my story.  The more I thought about it, every instance is like a laundry list “tell sequence”.

Matt did this, and then he did that, and then he did that. (It was not quite so blatant, but you get the idea) If you think about it, it’s kind of funny.  I know when I was beta reading the manuscript for my BP, the “and then’s” did pop out here and there, but I just figured it was writing style.  I didn’t particularly like it, but I let it go.  I didn’t even realize I was doing it myself.  Now that I’m re-reading with these comments in mind, they are popping out and blaring:  No No No!

So, my advice is, do what I did:  Do a search/replace on your manuscript just for starters.  Search for “and then” and replace with “and then” (just make sure you spell it correctly)  It won’t change anything, it will just give you a count of how many times you did it.  If it’s a lot, search again and start editing!

This is an easy fix.   I’m not saying this will bother every publisher, but if it’s a pet peeve of one publisher, it will probably bother another one, or two, or three.  Personally, I’m not willing to take a chance and let them go now that I realize what I’ve done.




Longest. Edit. Ever. The tediousness of overused words.

I usually edit out overused words last, but since a few beta readers pointed some out… I started fixing, and then the overused words snowballed.

I always have overused words. I think all authors do… but the quantity of words, sometimes appearing five times on the same page, astounded me.

Was it the speed I was writing? The lack of read-throughs before going to beta? (I usually read my manuscript five to ten times before going to beta)

I’m not sure, but I’m definitely not happy. What a terrible, tedious week.

Repeated words might not seem like a big deal, but they ruin the flow of a novel. They stand out, and can pull the reader from your story and remind them they are “only reading”.

Shame on me

That is NOT what I ever want to do to my readers. It is my job to help them escape for a little while. If they are reminded it is “just a book” then shame on me.

That’s why I took an entire week to tackle this before submitting to my editor. The only problem is that another beta pointed out a portion that would be more intense if I made one small point in the story a touch harder on my characters… and I agree.

So that leaves me with two weeks left to do another developmental edit/rewrite on the beginning of the story, and finish the re-write of the ending that I inadvertently started while getting rid of the repeated words in the last two paragraphs. PLUS do a complete final read-through start to finish.

Two weeks until the deadline?

Arghhh! PictureNo, this is not where I would like to be so close to the novel being due… Especially since ASHES IN THE SKY went up on Goodreads this weekend, and  I was supposed to start EMBERS IN THE SEA last Wednesday.

Tons, tons, tons of pressure… But I WILL get this manuscript in on time.

And I will try my best NOT to make sleep optional.

What words have you seen overused in novels?

Road to Publication #7: Dealing with the Dreaded Line Edits.

I’m glad I slept on it before working on the line edits.  You definitely need time to separate yourself from your initial emotional response before you deal with something like this.  Your initial desire is to roll up your sleeves and fight for everything.

But I know that wouldn’t have been right.  In truth, 85% of the edits they made were spot on.  I wouldn’t have seen that in “angry author mode.”  I definitely needed to calm my little creative butt down.

What I did was this:  The day after looking at the marked-up copy that made me want to rant and rave and throw things… I sat down, and calmly opened the “clean” copy.

The clean copy is the version of what my MS would look like if I accepted all of the publisher’s suggestions.  It made it easier to read, without seeing my own words slashed out in red.  It made the process much less “emotional”.

I read along, and saw their changes.  Most were fine.  Move this sentence there, transpose that sentence.  Delete this word… no biggie.  Like I said… 85% of the changes were fine.

I remember another author telling me once, “Choose your battles while in the editing process.”  So, I sat back, and decided which were really so terrible that I could not live with them… that equated to about 15% of the changes.

There were a few things here and there that really bothered me.  They were silly editing mistakes, like changing a word to something else, but that word is already in the following sentence making it repetitive.  In cases like this, I changed it back, and wrote a note as to why.

Now here was the biggest problem.  At one point, it is important that a character rips her dress.  One page at the end of the scene shows how she rips her dress.  The editor didn’t like the scene, so they cut it.  However, they realized that it was important, so they added the line:  “Her dress was soiled and ripped after…”

I cringed.  The editor removed the “show” and replaced it with “tell”.  Nope… sorry.   Not in my story.

I didn’t change it back word for word, but I did re-write the scene to make it shorter, and flow better.  I did agree that it didn’t fit too well at first.  Now, however, it seems to flow better, and it is a quarter of its original length.

There were a few more sections where they cut out parts of conversations, leaving the end-product… umm, let’s just say that I had to re-write.

Before I submitted, I made sure to explain why I made all the changes.  I didn’t want to seem abrasive, but everything I “Fixed” I felt strongly about.  I would have been embarrassed if it was published the way it had been edited.

Now?  Well, I do think it is tighter after this editing.  It wasn’t all bad.

At the moment, I am just waiting on their reaction to my comments and re-edits.

Don’t Stay Up Too Late: A Public Service Announcement

Ugh.  I feel like poop.

I had this policy that sleep was optional if there was not enough time in the day to do what was necessary to finish this manuscript on time.

Trust me.  Sleep is not optional.

I highly recommend that NO ONE stay up until 2:30 in the morning three days in a row.

It’s just not healthy.

I feel like I am walking around in a bubble, like there is a hum all around me.  Is there a force field around the house?  ERGH I feel weird.  My ears are ringing.

Believe me; I could not get a straight thought out right now even if I wanted to.  There’s no way I could write another line or read another word of this manuscript.

My Mom always said to get enough sleep.  I always tell my kids to get enough sleep.  I didn’t follow my own advice, and here I am.

When writing to a deadline, remember to schedule in time for sleep.

Going to bed now.

Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper:What stupid writing thing did your Beta Reader find this week?

I have to reiterate that Beta Readers are just the greatest thing EVER.  Especially if you can find someone who is almost as anal as you are!

I just had a beta reader finish a 50-page excerpt.  She made some good comments, but the best thing she did was highlight every time I used the words “Step”, “Smile”, and “Suddenly”.

I read over her comments, and initially thought “it’s not that bad”.  Then, like a good little author, I closed it, took a deep breath, and came back to it another day.  What I did the second time, is used my favorite “Search and Replace Tip” to count how many times I used these words.

For those of you who have not read my previous article, here is the trick:


Find the word you want to count.  Let’s use “suddenly”.  Open up the “Find/replace” feature in Word.  Search for “suddenly”, and replace with “suddenly”.  JUST MAKE SURE YOU TYPE IT EXACTLY THE SAME WAY so it replaces it with exactly the same word.  When you “Replace All” it will give you a count of how many times it replaced “suddenly”.  BOOM! You now know how many times you used your word.

I found that I used “suddenly” 13 times in 50 pages.  That means one of my characters “suddenly” did something every four pages or so.  I didn’t even realize it.  Absolutely unacceptable!  The funny thing is, I was able to delete almost every one with no other changes, and it was fine.  It was just an unnecessary word.

She is the second person to point out that my characters smile a lot.  So I did my little trick.  YIKES!  Someone smiled 30 times!  That’s once every page and a half!  I sure to have a lot of happy characters, although many were smiling while thinking mean thoughts.  Yes, I went thorough and made some changes.

Next check:  the word “stepped”.  Holy Cow!  In the 50 pages, it counted the word “step” 94 times.  That means someone “stepped” almost twice on every page.  I knew I had characters “stepping” but not quite that much!  Most of the time it is just to get movement into the story, so I need to work that out, and give them different things to do rather than walking around all over the place.

Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper… even when you know not to do stupid things, you may just read over it when it is your own story.

Beta Readers… they are worth their weight in gold.

If you don’t have a Beta Reader, go get one… but keep away from Ravena.

She’s MINE!  Mine, do you hear me?

***she cackles***


I’ll set her free in 300 pages.

Thanks Ravena!



Editing, Editing, and then, well, MORE EDITING-Advice from Publisher Authors

At a recent NJ Author’s talk on “Getting Published” (Click here to read my post from that night), many authors on the panel spoke about the importance of editing.  No brainer, right?  Well, you might be surprised.

There are a lot of people out there who have written a “great story” and sent it right out to agents, burned their bridges, and never had a beta read.  I know you are nodding your head.  Hopefully it’s because you KNOW someone, and you are not the culprit.

I ALMOST did this around a year and a half ago (Wow, has it been that long already?)  I finished HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT.  I edited the heck out of it with only my own input, and I was about to send it out.  I had trouble finding someone to read it for me, and I was confident, so I was going to skip this step…. but something told me to go out and find a beta reader.  I found a guy I didn’t know, and we exchanged manuscripts.  That’s when I found out that I had a great story **Yay**, HOWEVER, my presentation stank.

Author Jon Gibbs said “People send their work off too soon” He noted that when we read someone else’s work, we read what they wrote.  (Duh, right?)  Well think this over — When we read our OWN work, we read what we THINK WE WROTE.

How true is this?  I never noticed my lack of setting or character description, because I KNEW what everything looked like.  (Among many other problems my beta reader pointed out)  You really need to get a few people to look at your novel while you are editing to make sure you are writing what you THINK you are writing.  It actually took me about four beta readers to whack me upside the head and set me straight on this.

Jennifer R. Hubbard admitted that she didn’t edit enough when she started out, and that she was getting rejections.  The book she revised 12 times and had others read was the one that got published.  (I guess she is talking about “The Secret Year”)

Danielle Ackley McPhail suggested having different kinds of readers in the editing phase… Beta readers will help make your writing better, and “just plain readers” will tell you if the story flows and is enjoyable.  She also suggested making sure one of your “just readers” is someone who does not normally read your genre to get a different perspective.

So, if you are like me, and have people in your life pushing you to get your stuff out there… stick to your guns.  Do your beta-read drills.  Edit after their comments, and then DO MORE BETA READ DRILLS.

I am excited to say that I am sending out HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT for the third round of beta-reads (and three “just plain readers”) shortly.  After six beta readers, and editing and revising it with reckless abandon for well over a year, I think I’ve finally really written what I think I’ve written.  If not, I have full confidence that my readers will “Let me have it”.

I am going to look for new readers too, so I can get some fresh perspectives.  I am really looking forward to seeing if all this hard work has paid off!

Jennifer Eaton

Yes! We will publish your novel… If…

 You toil for years over your story.  It’s very intricate.  It’s brilliant

(I can say this because it’s not mine.  This just happened to a friend of mine Friday)

Your story is a three-part series. Every facet of book one is important to the next two novels, and they are all completely written (at least in draft form)

 You send it out, rejection here, rejection there, partial here, partial there, rejection, and then BAM!  A request for a Full Manuscript from an indie publisher.  The only chink is that they think it is too long, so you need to cut 25,000 words out of it before they will even consider you, and you only have two weeks to do it.  You toil and toil.  You edit till you drop.  Your beta partner reads madly right behind you watching for little plot chinks that don’t work.  Coffee if your friend.  Sleep is optional, but you do it.  You make your deadline.  (And I have to admit, the final draft minus the 25,000 words is AWESOME)

 You wait and wait, and after a few weeks, you get a response.  They are interested.  They just want you to change one little thing that they don’t like.  The problem is that one little thing is extremely important to the next two novels.  They said if she’s willing to change that, they’d read the revised version, and prepare to move forward.

 UGH!  I sat on the phone with her for an hour and a half trudging through how to make it work…  how to take this one facet out, or how to work around it.  A week ago, she was talking about how many of her friends changed their stories drastically just to get published.  Now here she is in the same boat.

 I’m wondering what I’d do.  Little changes everyone expects to make… but something drastic enough to affect your entire series? 

 Positive energy SHOOTING your way, Buddy!  I hope you make the right decision, whatever that is!