Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Oh Oh...Another Rejection...Why?

by Lea Schizas

When we, the acquisition editors, go through submissions, we discover similar ‘mistakes’ or ‘errors’ or ‘boo boos’, whatever you wish to call them, new authors make. We’d like to point out a few below in order to help you revisit your manuscript and get rid of these ‘whatever’ you prefer to call them.

1-The most common one is the passive voice, the one which doesn’t engage a reader enough to want to continue with the story. If you don’t grab them in the beginning don’t think for a moment they will move on to the next fifty passive pages to discover the story gets better. Nope. Most likely you’ve lost them in the beginning.

Simple example to change from passive to active:

“I was walking to the store.” PASSIVE

“I walked to the store.” ACTIVE

Now, please don’t think that the passive voice has no room in manuscripts. There needs to be a balance to express a ‘thought/sentence’ more clearly and bring the action forward. Plus, in many instances, the passive voice uses extra words that can be eliminated when rewritten more actively. It’s all about where you want the focus to be.

Another tip is to highlight the following words to see if the sentence can be rearranged to avoid as many passive usages as possible. By highlighting, you have a better visual of all the passive clusters to reword and make each sentence stronger.

began to
smile/grin [in romance especially]

2- Another aspect is too much telling instead of taking the opportunity to ‘show’ with action or dialogue. As an example, why tell the reader ‘She felt embarrassed’ when you can show her reddened cheeks, the awkward body stance fiddling with her dress, looking down, or anything else that clearly shows a comment or action made her uncomfortable. Or ‘She got pissed.’ Okay, we get this, it’s understood, but showing her ‘pissiness’ reaction by slamming her hand on the table, picking up and tossing something, fisting her hands, etc. brings an image to a reader without having to tell them of an emotion. It draws them into your visual world and showcases the character’s reaction at that moment.

3- Often we read chapters where an author repeats the same thing already penned in another scene. If the reader already has been told, don’t repeat. This occurs when there are two different POV scenes. If you’re going to repeat actions, then offer a different viewpoint from each character, not the identical thing. Move the story forward, don’t stagnate with repetition.

4- A typo here and there, fine, we turn a blind eye. When it’s littered with typos and grammatical mishaps it only shows us the author didn’t take the time to get beta readers/critique partners to go over it, as well as take pride in their own work and look it over again before submitting. So when you believe your manuscript is ready to go, put it aside and go over it in a day, a week, or even a month down the line.

5- Avoid using backstory smack in the beginning of a story. Why? Because the reader hasn’t been introduced to the character or situation yet so why would they care about the backstory. Infodump/backstory should be pertinent in some ways to the storyline, or to offer a ‘looksee’ into the character’s personae/rituals/history that explains a few things we’ll read at some point. Who cares if his next door neighbor used to babysit him and always drank during those hours watching over him unless drinking/drunk episode are crucial or elements of a bigger picture.

6- When there are only 2 people in a given scene, avoid using tags with each dialogue, spread them out more. Instead, consider using some body action in high emotional instances like I mention in #2 above.

Thank you for reading today’s Muse Marquee. Make sure to visit us again next Tuesday with Joan Curtis' article:
7 Tips for Writing Great Dialogue


Unknown said...

Those are all helpful hints to a beginning writer and, maybe, to an old pro. One of these days, I'll answer that question.

Chuck Bowie said...

These are excellent observations. In addition to these, I was also guilty of littering my exposition and descriptions with adverbs. The road to hell is paved with adverbs, as Stephen King says!

JoanCurtis said...

Thanks for these helpful tips. I might add a few more words to highlight to help the "show" "tell" issue. Those include: know/knew, hear/heard, see/saw. I'm working on edits to a manuscript now and I'm shocked to still see some of these errors! :-)

Meg Amor said...

Aloha. Fantastic post. Thanks so much. :-). I really enjoyed this. Very clear and precise. On adverbs which get a hard time Chuck. There's been a thing where they're the devil incarnate. It's mostly because they're used incorrectly. Simple example: the man dashed quickly down the street. If he's dashing - by default he's going quickly. She screamed loudly. By default she's going to be loud et I have to go through every MS still and take out 'is' which is the 'was' for other people. I wrote in first person. I think some things are a natural writing style. And also speaking style which don't translate as well on paper. Anyway. Thank you Lea!! Loved it. :-) Aloha Meg. :-).

Rosemary Morris said...

No matter how many novels etc., we have published, it's always useful to have these reminders to avoid falling into bad writing habits.

Thank you for pointing them out,

Rosemary Morris
Multi published historical novelist.