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)
So, 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)
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.”
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.
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