Monday, July 1, 2013

Reasons For Rejection

The Insecure Writer's Support Group, which posts on the first Wednesday of the month, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, can be found by clicking HERE. You can see other members and what they are writing about, or join up yourself.

I want to pass on some interesting reasons for rejection when you are ready to submit a manuscript to a publisher or an agent. These are things that you can investigate in your own writing and see if you need to do some editing. Please remember that there are a gazillion reasons why an agent or publisher might not use your work. It might be as simple as the wrong genre for that agent or publisher. But investigating them beforehand is always prudent and will keep you from having to waste time submitting and waiting to hear back.

Here are some other reasons:
  • An opening image doesn't work.
  • Opened with a rhetorical question(s).
  • The first line's hook didn't work, because it wasn't tied to the plot or the conflict of the opening scene.
  • The first line's hook didn't work, because it was an image, rather than something that was happening in the scene.
  • Took too long for anything to happen; the story taking its time to warm up.
  • Not enough happens on page 1.
  • The opening sounded like an ad for the book or a recap of the pitch, rather than getting the reader into the story.
  • The opening starts with phrases, "My name is..." and /or "My age is..."
  • The opening contained the phrase, "This can't be happening."
  • The opening contained the phrase or implication, "And then I woke up."
  • The opening contained too much jargon.
  • The opening contained one or more cliched phrases.
  • The opening contained one or more cliched pieces of material. For example: a character's long red or blonde hair.
  • The opening had a character do something that characters only do in books. For example: a character shakes their head to clear an image, or "clearing the cobwebs."
Do you know of other reasons why agents or publishers reject manuscripts? Can you add to this list?

Comments about writing: I believe that whether or not you choose to follow the current flow of what's acceptable in writing, is up to you. You are the author and as long as you can present your material masterfully and creatively, then if you want to take ten pages to "warm up" your story that's great. It might not be received as enthusiastically by this generation of readers, but you have to write what's in your heart and not sell out to commercialism.


  1. That's a very comprehensive list.
    I saw the critique of someone's first page where the person pointed out that the first line of dialogue didn't fit the supposed age of the character. (A young teen who sounded like an adult.) That could be another reason for rejection.

    1. Alex: That's a good point. Realistic dialogue can get tricky. It takes real work to make it believable. I know that happened to me one time in a story.

  2. Writing about writing in a way that is interesting to a non-writer.... I always enjoy your posts, and am fascinated by the "behind the scenes" stuff that I never knew went into the telling of a good story. :-)

  3. Great post. How about the agent or editor just accepted a manuscript that is remarkable similar to yours.

    1. By remarkably similar, I don't mean plagiarized. I mean, author submits manuscript about vegetarian vampires fighting unicorns in space, and by some bizzare stroke of coincidence, the agent or editor just accepted a manuscript about astronauts soldiers fighting unicorns in space, that also happens to have a vampire subplot.

    2. Hi Stephanie! It's amazing how similar plots can run, since most ideas stem from the same barrel. "Behold, there is nothing new under the sun." That's an old saying, but still true in modern days. I wouldn't want to be an agent reading manuscripts that all have the same basic plot. I think the trick is to find the one that is a shining star among the rubble. That way, what is unique and exciting becomes the new winner.

  4. Nice list. But the worst part is that an agent may not even tell you why he or she rejected your manuscript, and then you're left to wonder. Argh!

  5. Ken: That's true. And very disconcerting. Those form letters are the worst of all.