Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why Manuscripts Get Rejected by Literary Agents

Time to get back to work writing!

February began my query process. And guess what? Today, yes, I'm still querying hoping to snag that one literary agent who screams, "I LOVE THIS! Yes! Yes! Yes!" (i.e. the one who LOVES my story, my writing...and me as a person:))

Bite they have. I can't ignore this or get discouraged either (though it's so easy to)! I feel like I get so stinkin' close (so close) and then "poof" it's back to focusing on sending out more query letters again. I can't wait to show off my color-coded excel agent-tracking system someday on here. It's kind of like planning for my wedding all over again! Yeah!!

I needed one of my critique chicks - the awesome Julie Lindsey - to remind me today that she believes someone will sink their teeth in my mss. She mentioned some of her writer friends have received close to a hundred "no thanks" from agents and can't seem to get past the query stage. I've been able to get past it.

In the meantime, I'm working on making my manuscript (mss) better. 

Julie is right - I'm able to stir up some interest. But I can't help and think, if I haven't received a solid "yes", does that mean something is more than wrong with it? I've been very fortunate to have some really great agents read my work. They were kind enough to spend time writing back personal emails saying the story is definitely there and they like it but what I need is an agent who loves it and they believe he/she is out there; it's just not them.


But they know these things! I trust what they're saying. And so appreciate the feedback!

I also have a few literary agents who still have a partial or full right now, and I'm praying and hoping something is going on behind the scenes and that's why I haven't heard back from them just yet. (Have I mentioned I live in bit of a fantasy world?)

I have this email saved from my other critique pal Gabi that's a perfect analogy [for me]. She used my husband as an example. Back in my 20s, I wanted to get married so frickin' bad and was fed up with playing bridesmaid 20 million times and watching everyone else fall hopelessly in love. When would it be my turn?? I dated a lot of frogs, something was always off...my patience wore thin. Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I wanted to pull my hair out or cry myself to sleep wondering if I was destined to be single. Would someone magical be out there for me? Were all the good ones taken? Well, well, well....someone perfect did come along at just the right time. Took timing, learning and letting go to get there, but he sure was someone I fell totally head over heels for and he the same for me. And it's still happening day after day. I can't thank God enough for what we have. And that's what I need in an agent. Okay, okay...not all that lovely dovey stuff, but an agent who's crazy about my writing! Someone who supports me and wants to cheer for me and wants to see me grow and light up the world.

I want that. I deserve that.

However, I can't help myself from researching some of the other reasons my manuscript might have been rejected. I know agents are crunched for time. There has to be more to it and I'm on a mission to learn and grow. This is my dream we're talking about here and I can't just throw in the towel. Here's what I've found from several bloggers, agents, etc.

It's time to get to work!

Note: If you click on some of the highlighted words, they'll take you to the whole article.

1. Mechanical Problems
2. Passive Voice
3. Stale story ideas
4. No recognizable genre
5. Unsuitable word length
6. Too many adverbs (and flowery words/purple prose)
7. Predictability
8. Too many killers
9. Out of control point of view
10. Prologues that don't work
11. Plot with no spine
12. Writer uses phrase "fiction novel"
13. Doesn't seem organic/authentic
14. Too complicated
15. Too boring
16. Writer offers no reason to care for the character
17. Slipping into a sliding point of view
18. Too many stock characters
19. Too "moral"
20. Writers says how great book is over and over
21. Too many cliches
22.Unpleasant tone and attitude
23. Pacing is off
24. Genre isn't doing well
25. Bad dialogue
26. Not having the protagonist involved in climax
27. Spending too much time at the beginning on the story on a character who seems to be a protagonist but isn't.
28. Story starts too slow
29. Too many characters introduced too quickly (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has this and made it big. Hmmm)
30. Too much backstory
31. Flashbacks too early and too often
32. Story starts too quickly

For those who've had their mss rejected, what have you noticed? Please share!


I love this post! I can completely relate to it. In fact, I have just rewritten my ms and I'm ready to start the query process again. You should see my excel sheet- it's ridiculous. I also dream of the day I can post it because the rejections will no longer matter. My problem was 'voice' so I've rewritten everything and I genuinely believe this new draft is stronger. But i'm scared to get back out there with querying, because I know how tough it is to get sooooo close, but not close enough. Good luck!!

Thanks for stopping by and reading it! Querying IS scary but rewarding at the same time. Keep me posted on your status! Your "true" agent awaits you:)

I have yet to actually send any queries out, haha. I know that after I do I'm going to have to stop back here, re-read this post, and give myself a pep-talk. What you've shared of your MS on here is amazing! Keep working at it :)

Sounding Out thanks is simply my little way of saying. bravo for a fantastic resource. Take On my sweetest wishes for your incoming post.

Post a Comment