Monday, November 23, 2009

Updates on a round of submission reading

This weekend, like many agents, I spent the time reading and getting caught up on submission readings as well as working on my current client's WIP's. I thought today I would give you some insight into my thoughts on many of the projects I read this weekend.

Out of the stack (the pile I did yesterday was 1 1/2 feet tall) I rejected nearly all of the stories. I did find one that I wanted a full for so there was a positive side there. I also found a couple that I wanted to see more just to verify some things. Still, the majority I read were rejections.

Now this should not come as a surprise to authors out there. Agents and editors reject more projects than we sign all of the time. But, what I think I find interesting is that the reasons I give for rejection tend to be the same time and time again.

The list for yesterday...

* Weak Character Development Here is what I see with projects like this. I honestly think the writer had an idea for a character but that was it. They never really sat down to figure out what that character would actually think like and behave like. In these stories, I had external descriptions of the characters and I watched them move on the page from one activity to the next but that was it.

* Lack of depth (my all time favorite) I really wish I didn't have to write this one but it always comes up. The lack of depth issue deals with how much access the writer is giving us to the world they have just created with these characters. If I am left with a ton of questions about the chararacter, setting, plot or theme, then I am missing the depth necessary to draw us in. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying to give us all the answers at the beginning, but if I have no clue where I am, or who these characters are, or why they are out killing someone so soon, then we have problems. Books are to be savored (even fast reads). That happens with depth.

* Forced writing
The issue of forced writing often comes from two groups of writers. Beginning writers that have just finished their first novel and are already trying for the NY Times list, or those authors that are writing the "Great American Novel". These writers have wordsmithed the hell out of the manuscript in the attempt to find the right phrase and the right wording to describe the creme brulee. Paragraphs go on and on rambling about something that could be said in a sentence or two. And please, don't let me get started on the use of similes and metaphors. Looks a little is fine but a lot kills us.

* Great writing but same old, same old I have talked about this one. Editors and agents can't simply find stories that are just well written. We have to find something that is unique as well. In this case, I most of the "same old, same old" comments went to historical regency writers and romantic suspense writers. Why? Because according to the loops, they were "hot genres" about a year ago and now that wave is pounding heavily on our shores right now.

* Premise was great but the story fell apart With this one, there were again two different types of stories. The first simply came from writers that spent a ton of time on chapters 1-3 but from 4 on, the editing and thought simply wasn't there. Simply put, the quality of the writing decreased significantly due to the lack of attention on the craft side of things. The other group here fell apart with the from the initial premise through the end. This is where that synopsis came into play. A great idea was pitched but from the material given to me, it was clear the writer realized he or she didn't have enough to write about so they started adding "stuff". Plot lines went in 20 different directions, themes were added, second and third level characters and plot lines were created. Ugh! Stay focused people.

I want you all to know that when you get a rejection, you aren't unique. Unfortuntely, many more of you got that same letter with the same comments. Does this mean it was a form letter? Nope, you just had the same mistakes.



  1. This is a great list, thanks for posting it.

  2. This is the kind of information that really makes me think and re-think my WIP. Many Thanks for sharing this with us.

    My question is, do you ever ask for revisions and resubmission, or are you more inclined to just pass and look for the diamond a little less in the rough?

  3. Thanks for the great post, Scott. I found this really helpful. I am currently re-working a manuscript and that stuff about forced writing is making me rethink my wording.
    I really appreciate you taking the time to share this stuff in your blog. It's awesome.