Hello!

For the last two #AuthorToolboxBlogHop posts, I wrote about what could lead to rejections on queries/first chapters, and what could lead to rejections on partials. Today, I’d like to look at common mistakes I see in fulls. If you read my last post on partials, you’ll notice some of the points are the same, just applied on a larger scale.

 

  • Plot
    • It may seem surprising, but one of my most noted points in reader reports is the fact that there’s no plot. An MC doing a series of unrelated events or her day-to-day activities is not a plot. A plot requires a sequence of events that are interrelated. There should be a build/arc in the story. One thing that could help with this is writing the query or synopsis before starting the draft; that way you have an idea what your story is about (the goal, stakes, conflict) as you write. There are a lot of great book to help with plot structure, too. I use The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.
  • Active Characters
    • I spoke about this a bit last time: your character needs to have an active role in the story – this means they should be doing something to move the plot forward (rather than just have a bunch of stuff happen to them). Reactive characters might be one reason why agents/editors pass.
      • I’m not going to devote an entire point to goals because I feel like I’ve talked about it enough in previous posts but…MAKE SURE YOUR CHARACTERS HAVE GOALS.
  • Pacing
    • Often, stories will start off well but then the pace will slow in the middle and that’s where you lose readers. Getting a CP/beta reader/freelance editor is a great way to find out where the pace slows down because they can point it out to you; so you know where to tighten the manuscript. Also, working the beats of the plot is a great way to keep pace.
  • Tension/Conflict 
    • Don’t make things too easy on your characters. Tension and conflict is a great way to keep things interesting and keep readers hooked. Sometimes when I’m writing a scene, I’ll ask myself “what can I do here that will stir up trouble?”
  • Stakes 
    • Low stakes might be another reason why an agent/editor passes.  The stakes don’t need to be the end of the world to be high, they just have to be significant to your MC.
  • Subjectivity 
    • This sucks, but sometimes you can do everything right theoretically and agents/editors will still pass. It could be because of the market, but it could also be that they just didn’t “connect” – and that’s entirely subjective and out of your hands. Just remember it only takes one “yes!”

 

As always, remember there are exceptions to every rule!

 

 

 

 

9 Comments

  1. I like to think the project I’ve been submitting has everything you mentioned it needs. (I’ve worked on it long enough to ensure that. lol) I get the response that it’s not right for their list at the moment, which I believe is because of the market and maybe because they didn’t connect. It’s the subjectivity that is tough to get past. *sigh*

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  2. Such great points. I think it’s that subjectivity one that gets me into trouble most. My current book is definitely more ‘universally’ appealing in terms of topics/themes, but my last book, there’s a sub-theme that is perhaps less palatable in a good chunk of the U.S. We’ll see! Now off to schedule this for a Facebook share!

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  3. I find that active characters tends to be at the heart of a good character. If the character is properly motivated, has a clear long term goal, short term “stepping goals”, and some well chosen weaknesses, that tends to ensure that the rest falls into place.
    Almost every story that falls flat for me either has a character who lacks clear goals, or whose successes and failures are decided by chance & luck, rather than active choice. Though I also think a character who doesn’t start out with some intense weaknesses (which are then overcome while pursuing the goal), would also be a recurring issue for me.

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  4. Great points! These are all basics that it can be easy to notice in someone else’s writing, but harder to notice (and even harder to fix) in our own.

    I’m curious about your first two points. I understand a lack of plot is a problem, as are passive characters. But i’m curious – did these problems not show up in the partials? Or were these manuscripts where you hadn’t seen the partial?

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  5. Great insight, Hoda. Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of some of the things we know to be true when staring at the massive amount of words that make up our novels. You have provided a core list of things to keep in mind when going over your work for edits.

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