If we haven’t published anywhere, we fear to call ourselves a writer. Many times we fear judgment about what we write, so we stall, procrastinate and write on the surface. We fear we don’t have an MFA and don’t know enough about the writing craft.
When our short story, poem, or novel is finished, we fear to send out our work to a beta reader because we might hear something about our writing that we don’t want to hear.
One of the biggest fears? Our fear of rejection. We spend so much time perfecting a query and sending it to a lit agent only to never hear from them again, or we get a form rejection, which may be our 25th.
Fear stagnates. We stop flowing, we find ourselves trapped, or producing dull work.
Last week, I came across two helpful blog posts. (One I’d never read before). Both helped me reassess any fears I had about my writing. It is no mistake these posts found me.
In my neverending quest to move my manuscript (MS) to a literary agent and onto publication, I read info from a few ‘writerly’ resources. One of these stores of knowledge comes from Meg La Torre of iWriterly YouTube videos. I love that she gets to the point, the videos are brief but cover the subject, and she puts out new info every week.
One of the latest videos features seven lit agents who give their top three reasons why they reject manuscripts. Now, a few of the items are what we writers often hear: show don’t tell, character voice, and info dumps, but this latest video (December 4, 2019) gives us many more points.
Something is wrong/goes wrong or challenges the character
The character desires something.
The character takes action. Can be internal or external action: thoughts, deeds, emotions. This does NOT include musing about whatever.
There’s enough of a setting to orient the reader as to where things are happening.
(Go to the site for more)
This area also includes editing issues: too many problems with pacing, issues with point of view, talking heads, or amateur writing.
3. Expectations. Did the writer deliver on the query representation?
Your query highlighted specific goals, stakes, or story, but your first ten pages don’t reflect your representation. This may be a problem of not starting in the right place, a slow pace, or an info dump instead of starting in the now.
4. Is Your Story Idea Unique Enough?
What distinguishes your novel from the hundreds of other fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery novels out in the bookstores. Is your book told in a fresh way? What makes it new and exciting in an oversaturated genre? Remember, the agent has to ‘sell’ your MS to an editor and team.
If this area isn’t clear to you, perhaps you can read about the need for a sensitivity reader. The person should be able to spot cultural inaccuracies, stereotypes, bias issues, or problematic language. This doesn’t cover only ethnicities, but areas of gender, abilities, etc.
In my writing group of seven women (a diverse group of Anglo, Latinx, bi-racial, and multi-ethnic), we spot problem areas and learn from each other, including having a sensitivity reader if we believe this will improve the MS.
6. Plot and Character Arcs
This can be anything from a lack of change in the character, plot holes, inconsistencies in the timeline, or jumping around too much in the storyline. Does your novel have enough conflict, does the conflict raise the stakes in the story, does the character act and react through the story, so we know what she’s thinking or why she’s taking action. Do we care?
7. World Building
Building the world begins on the first page. This is difficult because you don’t want to dump a whole lot of info but enough to provide context to the reader. The setting allows your reader to visualize the environment and characters better. This is a critical area for fantasy, speculative, sci-fi writers who must construct an imaginary world.
To learn more about the reasons, lit agents reject an MS, watch the presentation. If you click the “Show More” beneath the video on the iWriterly YouTube page, you will see a list of the participating agents and links to their agencies and social media.
Thanks for reading and I hope this is useful for any of my blog followers who are writers. Keep on writing!
Twittering birds began their rabble-rousing earlier than usual this summer solstice morning.
I enjoy listening to their conversations and energy as I wake.
This morning I’m praying for a better day for the thousands of detained immigrant children spending agonizing days and nights without their parents or someone to comfort them in their distress.
I’m praying for the moral treatment and morale of our country to do better.
I’m thankful for the hundreds of organizations, thousands of Americans, and others around the globe signing petitions, and calling on elected officials to do something more humane for refugees/immigrants.
My own personal problems are minuscule by comparison. There is no comparison for babies and children ripped from their parent’s arms.
I’m heartened by those who are showing up at airports, detention centers, and their elected official’s offices to show their support of the refugees and their anger about the existing law.
I’m grateful for the many organizations who are helping refugees and those who are using social media about the places to donate. (One organization is Raices).
As the quote above states:
Let all things live with loving intent.
Today, all things seem possible. I’m praying more people will live with compassion and loving intent.
Make your summer solstice day one of random acts of kindness, a supportive word, a hug, a smile.
The fires here in Ventura County and adjoining Santa Barbara still rage. The fire consumed 265,000 acres with 40% containment this morning. However, the fire has redirected to the city of Montecito which is now under evacuation.
Hundreds lost homes, property, and pets. People remark those city icons and landmarks they’ve loved are no longer around. (We just hiked this area a week before the fire. Remarkably, the Serra Cross first erected in late 1700’s survived).
People died. A woman and a Fire Fighter lost their lives to this fire. Hundreds more had to flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs.
Schools are closed because of the air quality. Most people need to wear a smoke filtering mask to go about their daily business.
All of this devastation disorients many people; more for those directly impacted by the fire and those who have no resources to stay with friends, relatives or in hotels.
I saw this loss in the eyes of those staying in Red Cross shelters and heard the stories of men, women, and children who lost everything and have no place to go.
What lifts the spirits and helps people go on is the work of many organizations, like the Red Cross, restaurants who donate food, community people and small businesses giving clothing and water. Cell phone providers donating charging stations.
Mental health staff, nurses, and children’s services came to help. Church communities reached out to provide resources and care.
Kids from schools made paper holiday wreaths, green and white linking handprints, which they gave to the shelters. Shelter clients looked up from their cots and smiled to see those decorations. Children hugged new donated stuffed animals.
Along the streets and near the base camp of the firefighting operations are “Thank You!” signs that parents and their children made. The Museum of Ventura County organized a free workshop for kids. I’m sure that weary eyes appreciate the gratitude.
What gives people hope for this trying time is a sense of community, pulling together, everyone and anyone helping to ease discomfort and pain. In stressful times like these, what children learn is how their parents react to a crisis and how a community can help.
There is much more to do in the aftermath of this fire.
The website of the Thomas Fire Fund, set up by a coalition of emergency service groups, is taking monetary donations. You can also text “UWVC” to 41444 or call 805-485-6288. Thank you.