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!
What a month September has been. Amid family crises, personal issues, another birthday and travel to Chicago, I feel like I’ve been on a whirlwind of emotions, back to back.
Now that my mom’s surgery is over and was successful, I can breathe. She was schooling me on her funeral plans and debating her DNR (do not resuscitate) paperwork, all which took a subconscious toll on my mental health.
My son’s car was hit by a police SUV, accidentally, and after realizing he wasn’t significantly hurt, I gave thanks. Sharing my car with him for three weeks, hassling with insurance, and medical visits was troublesome but we made it through.
Getting another year older, seeing more gray hair and another wrinkle, or two, has its own issues, but hey, it’s better than the alternative.
Every week in September I received a rejection notice from some lit agent. File that in pfft.
Last week I got to travel to Chicago. That was a highlight of the month.
Chicago hot dogs (at Portillo’s) and deep dish pizza are every bit as good as the Chicagoans brag about.
Now I know why Chicagoans call pizza, a pizza pie and why Giordano’s is in the business of shipping frozen pies to your hometown. Two slices and you’re done for the evening, but the next day you want more.
We enjoyed an architectural and history tour of Chicago via boat-outstanding views of the skyline. The art museum is a gem as is Millennium Park, but what’s up with the crowds at Cloud Gate (The Bean)? This stainless steel sculpture got hordes of attention.
I have too many photos to post here, but if you’re interested and ‘do’ Instagram, I’ve just begun posting photos of my travels, art I find interesting, and insightful quotes.
In the meantime, I’m going to stretch and exhale for the next few days. I need to ‘re-center’ myself. Which may be the reason why this photo resonated with me. (By the way, the BMX rider isn’t falling, he’s popping a wheelie).
For more astonishing sports photos, see the Red Bull Illume 2016 Winners.
This has been a frightening week, interspersed with personal trying periods, and a need to bury my head for a couple of hours at a time.
My daughter texted me after the tragedy in Nice, France.
I hated that she felt unsafe. I hated that I couldn’t stretch my arms across 1,000 miles and give her a hug, kiss her forehead. All I could offer her was to look for hope and to take a deep breath.
But I had to remember that feeling unsafe doesn’t mean that we are.
This was my reaction to feeling powerless, angry, and fearful.
I wanted to share the power of prayer with her, but she isn’t Christian or of any faith anymore. That in itself added to my sadness. But, also gave me the opportunity, later, to have a conversation with her about why I pray and how that helps me.
That night the news across all channels broadcast the tragedy. Soon there was another world event, the attempted coup in Turkey, and another, the sniper attack on police officers in Baton Rouge.
I had to keep the television off and stay off social media. My mind, spirit, and body were out of whack.
My attempts at ‘righting’ myself was to practice some self-care. I tried to find ways to relax and experience safety.
The garden beckoned. The Monarch caterpillars had decimated the milkweed leaving it a skeletal reminder of a once gorgeous fiery orange headed plant. Meanwhile, new butterflies showed off acrobatic skills over the remaining fronds of the second milkweed bush.
While watering the potted succulents I found that two blossomed with beautiful flowers. Being in the garden helped and somehow pushed me to go to the gym and exercise.
That evening I decided not to go out and sat in my backyard coloring. My sister gifted me with the adult coloring books a few months back. This may sound cheesy, but I felt a lot of pleasure wielding the colored pencils, so much that I had to go buy me a box of Crayola crayons, the giant 64 set box.
The next day, I read a mesmerizing book of poetry written by a man who had been a slave and put into the ‘service’ of a wealthy slave owner as a child of six years of age. Although his verses expose the cruelty of slavery, his poetry reflects the beauty he finds with his parents and his own world.
Meditation via my cell phone is a life saver. I either go to Pandora and listen to Deepak Chopra or I go to the Oprah channel and listen to one of Chopra’s 21 days of meditations. (Many times they are free).
On Sunday, I attended church service where I’m a greeter a couple of times a month. As I passed out bulletins to numerous families, teenagers and the elderly, the smiles people gave after a “good morning, I hope you enjoy the service” enlivened me.
I wondered why I felt a new energy, and it dawned on me that although the people were heavily burdened, they were trying to live and do the best they could.
Over the weekend, I kept in close contact with my daughter and shared the photos above with her. I don’t know if this helped her but it sure helped me.
Do the best you can. Create your own safe space. Hugs.