Feb 08 2011

10 Reasons Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected

Published by at 11:34 am under Getting Published,Writing Articles

1.  Proofreading problems, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and/or poor word usage. Failing to catch these sorts of mistakes in a manuscript or query will almost always lead to a quick rejection.

2.  The plot sounds too banal. Your query has one page to give us enough details to show what’s at stake and make your plot come alive.  For more on quickly getting to the point, see this article on two-sentence summaries.

  • REJECTED: “A man has to save the day.” The only way this could be more generic is if you replaced “man” with “person.”  Next time, say something about what he has to do to save the day, who he’s saving it from, etc.
  • STILL PRETTY BAD: “A detective has to solve a case.”
  • BETTER: “A poisoned detective has 48 hours to solve his own murder.”  I like the sense of urgency here.
  • SWEETNESS: “A killer who believes himself an artist of unmatched talent is incensed by being placed last on the FBI’s most wanted list.  He begins killing off those fugitives above him in twisted manners that serve his creative vision.”

3. The manuscript isn’t finished yet! I’m not aware of any novel publishers that work with first-time novelists that haven’t completed the manuscript.  Unproven first-timers prove themselves by completing the manuscript, and until then nobody will know whether you have it in you to finish the job.  The publisher can wait.

4.  The characters come off banal. What are their personalities like? How are they different from other protagonists in their genre?  (Personality? Key traits? Flaws? Hard decisions? Unusual choices? What’s at stake for them? What are they trying to accomplish? What mistakes do they make?)

5. The author has stumbled into a highly-developed niche without trying hard enough to stand out in a good way. In particular, if the author has only read a few books in the genre, it’s probably going to feel like a ripoff of them.  Read extensively and try looking for unusual choices you could give the characters.  For example, Peter Parker is more human than purely heroic, so it makes sense that he pettily declines to stop the robber that later kills his uncle.  Bob Swagger is so loyal that, even after being framed as an assassin, he breaks into an FBI-guarded morgue so that he can bury his dog properly.  In each of these cases, the unusual choice leads to a major negative consequence.  (Peter’s uncle dies and Bob gives away his position to the FBI).

6.  The introduction is forgettable. Some common problems:

  • The main character(s) doesn’t do anything interesting early on.  (Red flag: The story starts with a character waking up and doing his morning routine).
  • The main character isn’t well-developed early on.  Give the character a chance to establish himself early.  (For example, force him into a difficult choice).
  • Too little is at stake.  The character doesn’t have to be in physical danger, but do threaten something or some goal he cares about.

7. The author has forgotten the word count or the word count is outside of the publisher’s range. You need to tell your publisher how long the manuscript is (to the nearest thousand words).  The page count is NOT acceptable for novel publishers because the page count fluctuates wildly based on your typesetting choices (spacing, font, size, etc).  Most publishers prefer adult novel manuscripts between 80,000-100,000 words, but length guidelines vary a bit by genre.

8.  The antagonists are forgettable. For example, they may be one-dimensionally evil, not threatening enough (like a villain that lets the hero walk away from a tough loss), not challenging enough for the protagonists, a cardboard cliche (like most bullies), etc.

9.  The main character doesn’t change. This doesn’t have to be positive change–for example, Frodo gets corrupted by the ring.  The character’s capabilities may be a part of it (like Peter Parker becoming more confident after developing superpowers), but it should definitely go beyond just the capabilities.  For example, does the character’s personality change?  Does he develop any new flaws?  Do his motivations/goals change?  Etc.

10.  The protagonist is too perfect/unflawed. It’s probably unbelievable and possibly even goofy if the protagonist is a purely unvarnished bundle of virtue and everybody he faces is pure eeeevil. I’d recommend some morally gray obstacles.  For example, maybe the character’s friends aren’t 100% supportive of everything he does, maybe his coworkers/bosses have reasonable disputes with the character, or maybe there’s an antagonist whose intentions are pretty pure, etc.  If there’s no approach for a character to disagree with the hero without coming off as a bad person, the hero is probably not morally complex enough to feel fully believable.

45 responses so far

45 Responses to “10 Reasons Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected”

  1. SF Signalon 08 Feb 2011 at 12:29 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by SF Signal (John D.), Dwight L. MacPherson and Oric S. De Las Casas, Josh Vogt. Josh Vogt said: RT @sfsignal: One for the #writers: 10 Reasons #Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected http://bit.ly/ev24r6 #fb #pubtips […]

  2. Nicholas Caseon 08 Feb 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Okay, how does this sound?

    A speedy 11 year old alien hybrid finds himself thrust into an inevitable battle with the dictator of Earth after his attempt to help a young girl. He begins to try and run away but soon realizes that if he doesn’t kill him, Earth will meet the end of it’s rope.

  3. Sean Higginson 08 Feb 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Nicholas – it sounds interesting, but I’d adjust it quite a bit before sending it to an agent or publisher.

    Do you really want to use the word speedy? If he’s supposed to be a superhero, I believe the term Speedster would show a little familiarity with the genre. If not, I don’t think it’s necessary to give that particular trait. “He begins to try and…” seems awfully words. Could probably be changed with “He tries to…”

    Probably some other changes, but the over all thought intrigues me.

  4. B. Macon 08 Feb 2011 at 8:25 pm

    “If he’s supposed to be a superhero, I believe the term ‘speedster’ would show a little familiarity with the genre.” That would probably be true for superhero stories, but I’m not sure that Nick’s story is a superhero novel* and he doesn’t seem to sell it as one. If it’s not a superhero story, then using a term with a superheroic connotation might not be ideal.

    *My initial impression is that it feels more like action/sci-fi. Some superheroic elements that seem to be missing so far include:
    –It’s set in the distant future, a world that’s substantially different than ours. (Nick didn’t mention in the synopsis, but the emperor blows up two continents and, ahem, there’s a world emperor).
    –The characters don’t seem to have dual identities. (Unless, say, a major part of the plot revolves around the alien trying to hide his alienness).
    –The character’s values seem to play a pretty minor role so far.

    Besides the main character’s demographics (11 year old alien), I think that the only thing we learn about the protagonist is his superspeed. I think he’d sound like a more interesting protagonist if we knew something about his personality and/or flaws and you could maybe use those to develop the relationship between him and the girl and/or his challenges. For example, maybe his hotheadedness** makes it harder for him to keep her on his side.

    **At least, I got the impression that his hotheadedness has been an issue for him so far, like when he snapped after she pointed out how cold his hand was.

  5. Nicholas Caseon 08 Feb 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Well he get’s it from his grandma and anything above 75 degrees makes him extremely irritable. 90 degrees will make him pass out from his DCS (Death Chill Syndrome) I figured since he’s a cold speedster he should be highly vulnerable to heat. (However when he transforms he can withstand higher temps) But his grandmother molly get’s it from her ancestor Kristy. (Kristy is Nicholas’s sister who was killed by Gregory, Nick’s best friend. It’s a long story but I’ll stick on Portentous.)

  6. Simbaon 09 Feb 2011 at 9:30 am

    Hey, been a while since I last commented but I wanted to get some feedback on this plot “pitch” for a graphic novel:

    A psychometric detective with a perfect record finds himself confronted by the case of a serial killer that he just can’t seem to solve and is slowly driving him insane.

    I feel like the wording in the second part of the sentence is a little clunky but I can’t manage to think of anything better.

  7. Nicholas Caseon 09 Feb 2011 at 10:01 am

    Okay B.Mac, I feel like I owe you at least something. I did some reasearch and I think I’ve got some got stuff here.
    5 reasons why your superpower descriptions are lame.

    1. They start casual. When I say this I mean that at the beginning of the story don’t say,
    “Bob fires a Death Blitzer at the burning building.”
    The first thing that comes to mind is,
    “What the heck is a ‘Death Blitzer’?!”
    Here is are some variations,

    EPIC FAIL- Bob shot a Death Blitzer.
    LAME-Bob blew up a building with a Death Blitzer.
    MEH-Bob destroyed the burning building with a black Death Blitzer.
    BETTER-Bob fired a black energy blast called Death Blitzer at a burning building.
    WIN-Seeing the burning building, Bob cupped his hands and focused as hard as he could forming a deathly black, flame-like ball. Bob then aimed his hands at the building and fired it, obliterating the building.

    Note: This is only if you introduce a new attack. If you have already had you character use the technique (In more than two instances) and name it, then you could refer to it in a more casual tone. However I would would stay around ‘MEH’ for the minimal of casualty.

    2. You describe the power longer than 2 sentences. If it takes you more that two sentences to describe an attack then summarize it. Your readers don’t have to know every detail, let them imagine a little.

    3. You forget the reaction. Sure your readers should know what a Death Blitzer is by the middle of the story right? Well, DON’T forget the reaction. I don’t care how generic the after-effect is, NEVER forget it! If he fires the attack, how do we know what happens once it lands? Does it kill the victim and cut a swath of destruction or does it blow up in Bob’s hands and blow his hands off? The reader should know this!

    4. ‘Good’ is NOT good! What this means is that you say,
    “The black ball burned up stuff, but B.Mac dodged it.”
    Can’t you find something else to describe it other than ‘black, and ‘burned up stuff’? Another one is ‘good’, that could be changed to something that explains the noun better. Exceptional, breath-taking, and mesmerizing-just to name a few.

    Tip- Adding a dash and ‘like’ to some words can spice it up. Here are a few examples,
    And generally any noun that it could be described as. Also if you use a color, instead of saying ‘blue’ liven it up with something like, ‘bedazzling blueberry’ depending on the audience.

    5. The descriptions are out of the audience’s understanding. B.Mac had a problem with me with this one. I’m just a kid, but I wrote the dialogue like an adult was talking rather than a child. We get it, some people have big vocabularies. Sometimes we are afraid that the audience won’t understand the ‘slang’ and such. Common slang like ‘gonna’ and ‘ain’t’ can be used just fine, ‘homie’, and ‘G’ can’t. ‘eyeballs’ can work, but ‘blepharos’ can’t. If your description is out of the audience’s league, it sucks.

  8. B. Macon 09 Feb 2011 at 11:24 am

    “A psychometric detective with a perfect record finds himself confronted by the case of a serial killer that he just can’t seem to solve and is slowly driving him insane.”

    Some thoughts, Simba:

    –I didn’t know what “psychometric” means. (If I had had to guess, I would have assumed it was a superpower). Would it be fair to call the character a “police profiler” instead? I think editors would be more familiar with that term.

    –“with a perfect record” could probably be shortened to something like “master” or “ace.” (Perhaps something like “A master police profiler…”)

    –I feel like it would help if you focused more on why this case was so different from all of the ones he’s solved. (What about this case pushes him to the edge? Why’s this killer so much harder to find than the others?) That’d probably help cover your genre/subgenre, too. For example, in the creepy thriller Silence of the Lambs, the main case is different because the protagonist has to turn to a brilliant serial killing cannibal for help. In D.O.A., the main case is different because the protagonist has been poisoned and has 2 days to solve his own murder.

    –The element of the detective going insane over the case strikes me as interesting. It raises the stakes.

    –I think this is generally a pretty functional summary of the plot, but it’s not quite distinctive/memorable yet. The editor may have 20 detective manuscripts on her desk, so make her want to read this one. Describing the villain and/or his goal a bit more may help.*

    *For example, we could do an interesting premise for Top Ten just based on the villain: “A killer who believes himself an extraordinary artist is incensed by being placed last on the FBI’s most wanted list and begins killing off those fugitives above him in twisted manners that serve his creative vision.”

  9. ekimmakon 10 Feb 2011 at 2:34 am

    How about having the main character waking up being dangled over the edge of a building?

  10. Sean Higginson 11 Feb 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Eki – I really like that idea. I believe B. Mac is reitterating the fact that starting a story with a characters daily routine is typically a bad sell. No one wants to read about me waking up and brushing my teeth (though it worked in Hitchhiker’s Guide because of what the character saw in the mirror). Now if the character’s routine is more exciting and unexpected, I’d say it’s probably doable (i.e. a serial killer that starts his morning by going down to his dungeon and torturing his victims. I know I never really wake up until I’ve tortured the overweight bald man who reminds me of my father).

  11. B. Macon 11 Feb 2011 at 1:07 pm

    “Now if the character’s routine is more exciting and unexpected, I’d say it’s probably doable…” I agree with Sean.*

    One potential concern about a character waking up dangling over the side of a building is whether you’d be able to develop the character enough right off the bat that readers will care about whether he/she survives. I’ve seen some page 1 action scenes work, but I’ve seen a lot of them implode. Personally, I’m a bit wary of them.

    *Even though he’s a Packers fan. Speaking of which, Sean, are you into fantasy football?

  12. Nicholas Caseon 11 Feb 2011 at 1:46 pm

    So is my first page action scene good or imploded?

  13. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:03 pm

    i got a story idea for a superhero novel i
    m working..

  14. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:04 pm

    still gotta work out the details but i think it’s pretty solid

  15. Nicholas Caseon 11 Feb 2011 at 4:06 pm

    I’m waiting to see what it is. 😀

  16. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:11 pm

    its about a clone who was made to protect earth..an alien race admired humankind.. so they created a clone to basically protect humanity..they basically genetically inhanced the clone to a superhuman.. having everything a human has x 100..they make the clone and artifically inseminate a woman on earth.. so that the boy can live on earth..but a jealous and power hungry alien from that race.. steals the boy and takes him to their planet.. making him a galactic warrior(gadilator) (sorry for spelling)..for years.. until eventually he is rescued and taken back to earth.. to live and fulfil his destiny.. there’s more but can someone tell me if that’s good

  17. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:15 pm

    his weakness is that his body temp.. cannot be lower than the normal.. temp for a human being.. making it hard for him to be in a cold climate

  18. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:19 pm

    sounds like a typical superhero idea.. but my goal is to make it dark and really change the “superhero” perspective..i don’t want it to be a regular superhero book..

  19. B. Macon 11 Feb 2011 at 4:35 pm

    It sounds sort of bland, Riddleman… What’s the boy’s personality like?

  20. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:40 pm

    kinda quiet shy..smart.. sometimes short tempered.. i have to develop him more as the story goes on..

  21. B. Macon 11 Feb 2011 at 4:42 pm

    “So is my first page action scene good or imploded?”

    1) None of the characters feel noticeably interesting or likable early on. (It’s a villain-centric scene, so it’ll be light on likable characters, but I feel they could be more interesting).
    2) If the destruction of the continents is supposed to be a pretty big deal, I’d recommend building up to it in more than a paragraph.
    3) Haden feels sort of one-dimensional to me.
    4) I would have passed on the manuscript at “TSSSOW-BOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!”

  22. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 4:47 pm

    is this ur comment on my story

  23. Nicholas Caseon 11 Feb 2011 at 4:51 pm

    some thoughts-

    -Is this just about the boy’s safety? If it is you’ll need to develop him greatly on the reader-people are so full of themselves. People only really care if it’s something dealing with the Human race-if Earth isn’t at stake then people may pick up another book.

    -Why would they make him look Human? If he protects the Earth from major threats (Say, an alien invasion) then people would know him right? If he’s under cover-why would he be under cover?

    -Why would they admire Earth to the point of going through all that trouble and risk to make a guardian of Earth? This was a tad unclear.

    -If I’m correct, a clone is a copy of something. So who is this clone of? Why did they make the clone a child?

    -Why would the boy need a mother if he didn’t need it? He doesn’t need a mother to live on Earth right? What would make it important to give this clone a mother?

    -What does this guy plan to do with him? Be a gladiator for what? Gladiators are Roman fighters in a game played in a Colosseum, so is this just for kicks?

    -If he’s just a gladiator, why would the kidnapper he be jealous and power hungry? It’s cliche if you ask me, your reader has probably read 10 other stories about a jealous, power hungry guy bringing the world to it’s knees-does your story make them want to stick around for an 11th?

    -This is about the boy right? So why would he be rescued by someone else. If this is in a first person point of view it will be difficult to execute this because in 1st person we only know what the character knows, nothing more, nothing less. I think it would be better for him to rescue himself if this story only have 1 to 2 protagonists.

    -How can he fulfilled his destiny? Protecting Earth is an endless job. However, this can be a good thing if you’re writing a saga.

    -One last thing. If you want help, tell me the whole story. I only based this from what I know and inferred from what was given from the sounds of it your a teen or a young adult. Don’t take this offensive but you might want to brush up on your grammar skills…you see how these dots could just be replaced with a period…or commas…and there are too many breaks as well…it’s hard to read like this…isn’t it?

  24. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 5:20 pm

    yes you are right, I do plan on making it a saga. He was cloned from a famed war soldier back in the vietnam era. The aliens choose a human mom, because they wanted the boy to grow up. Eventually learning the human culture and becoming a familar human like hero, instead of an “alien” looking stranger.The alien who rescues him was one of the creators that made him.The jealous alien, wants to use him for his own personal “bodyguard of death” and take over other planets. (but what i need to do is explain the jealous alien’s orgins more).The boys fights other aliens as a child, and proves to the jealous alien that he is indeed what he is looking for. The boy needs to be rescued because he didn’t know what his real goal was. If he would’ve continued to fight he would’ve been too dangerous and eventually very powerful.Now when the alien who saves him and the boy come to earth, the alien disguises his self as a human (still trying to think of names), and poses as the boy’s adopted father. At this time the boy is a teenager about 17 years in age and he attends high school. ( my goal for this is to attract teenagers and young adults) He meets friends and becomes comfortable in his new setting.One day he is forced to use his powers and eventually is tracked down by, jealous alien’s robotic bounty hunter he created.The jealous alien orders a massive invasion on earth, killing anything and everything, in the way to find the young boy.

  25. riddleman54on 11 Feb 2011 at 5:24 pm

    there is more detail,but i have to actually write the story first. a little help with story names and alien race names would be cool too. also a nice idea for how the aliens can look, so i can describe them better

  26. B. Macon 11 Feb 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Riddleman, I don’t think I can help you. I’d recommend brushing up on writing mechanics (punctuation/grammar, particularly) and taking as many writing courses as possible. Good luck.

  27. Simbaon 21 Feb 2011 at 2:01 am

    Hey B. Mac, sorry it took me so long to answer…

    Psychometric is a superpower. It means that he (the detective) would get a sort of ‘psychic flash’ from the things he touches.

    I thought of some other terms to use instead but I don’t know if they fit properly since he only has the ability when touching things. Anyway, here they are:
    -Mystical (or Mystic)

    As a note I wrote everything up to this point as I read. However, when I got to the end the idea had changed in my mind based on your feedback and things that had come to me so changing the idea that going through my responses to the rest of what you have said would be pointless since I would have to just retrace my steps afterward and explain the improved idea / pitch with relation to the points you made and write through the mental process I already went through (I think that was clear; I can settle for semi-clear, though).

    Anyway the new idea could be one of two things. The first would remove the supernatural aspect from the story (though I may decide to give the psychic ‘ability’ to the killer instead); though it could be said that serial killings are supernatural.

    An ace detective finds himself being driven insane by the case of a serial killer whose killings all relate to his life.

    The second would keep the psychic aspect and serve as an example of what a clarification less influenced by the changes might be like:

    An ace detective who receives psychic impulses from the things he touches finds himself confronted by the case of a serial killer who is taking advantage of the detective’s powers to drive him insane.

    I don’t feel the second is very clear and does a good job of clarifying, though. The main problem with the two I can’t figure out how to solve is how to make it obvious which person the “his” and “him” points to without being verbally clumsy.

    Thank you for your input thus far.

  28. B. Macon 21 Feb 2011 at 3:14 am

    “An ace detective finds himself being driven insane by the case of a serial killer whose killings all relate to his life.” Hmm. It may be possible to phrase this more actively.
    Perhaps something like “A clairvoyant detective has to [do something] before he is driven insane by a serial killer exploiting his psychic abilities.” Alternately, instead of “a serial killer exploiting his psychic abilities,” you could imply how personal this case is with something like “toying with him by [phrase].

    Alternately, if the serial killer is the psychic, you could do something like “An ace detective has to [do something] before he is driven insane by a psychic serial killer.”

    In both of the above cases, I think readers can figure out who is referred to by the him/he/his pretty easily.

    If a character is superpowered, I would recommend adding a word like “clairvoyant” or perhaps “psychic” or “prophetic” to indicate the supernatural element right away. I tried “A clairvoyant detective” rather than “A clairvoyant ace detective” above because I think the superpower implies that he’s exceptional at his job.

    “An ace detective who receives psychic impulses from the things he touches finds himself confronted by the case of a serial killer who is taking advantage of the detective’s powers to drive him insane.” In your query letter, you’ll have a few paragraphs to do an interesting/intriguing overview of the story and convince an editor to read the enclosed chapters and ask for the full manuscript. How important are the details about his superpowers? “who receives psychic impulses from the things he touches” could probably be shortened to a single word (like “clairvoyant” or “psychic”) and I think that would give you a bit more space to cover the meat of the story. For example, what’s the detective like? Maybe… Why’s the villain targeting him?

  29. Simbaon 21 Feb 2011 at 1:08 pm

    So now the two pitches come to this..:

    “A clairvoyant detective has to solve a series of murders as he is driven insane by a serial killer exploiting his psychic abilities.”

    and, well, as for the second one I tried to develop it / go over it in my hand but it lost part of its appeal to me and something new came of it which I like a lot more…

    “An imprisoned convict wakes up with no recollection of the past twenty-four hours surrounded by four dead bodies and races to find out what happened before the police catch him, again.”

  30. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Apr 2011 at 9:28 pm

    “6. The introduction is forgettable. Some common problems:
    The main character(s) doesn’t do anything interesting early on. (Red flag: The story starts with a character waking up and doing his morning routine).”

    I’ve changed my story idea and I just wrote up a quick scene that I could potentially rewrite and use as an opening. It involves the morning routine of the four main characters, but I like to think it might be acceptable because it reveals some of the key differences between them and regular people.

    I’m also trying to show what they can do in terms of power without explicitly stating it. It’d be great if you guys could have a quick read and a) tell me if this would work as an opening (I know it needs a rewrite at the very least) and b) guess at their powers so I can see if it came across how I intended.

    Their powers have changed a bit since my last draft.

    Thanks in advance.

    ““You’re both clean shaven guys! One of you has to have a spare razor lying around that I can borrow.” Kamari stood in the doorway to the living room, a red towel wrapped around her body.

    “No can do,” said Tristram. He didn’t even look up from his computer. “I used my last spare this morning.”

    Klemente looked at her and shook his head. “I don’t have one either.”

    “I don’t get why you’re cutting the extra hair off though,” added Tristram, after some thought. “Can’t you use that as a weapon too?”

    “Triz, you are the most disgusting human being I have ever met. I refuse to go to my first day on the job looking like something that escaped from the zoo.”

    “No one would think that. They don’t have Yetis in the zoo.”

    Kamari picked up a throw pillow from the sofa and swung it, hitting Tristram up the head so hard he veered to one side. He glared at her and rubbed the side of his head.

    Klement snickered. “Your face just now, Kam. That was awesome.”
    Moments later, Kamari saw her own face looking back at her, twisted into an imitation of her angry expression.

    “It was like this.”

    “Ack!” Kamari picked up another pillow to throw at him. “Don’t do that, it’s scary as hell to see my own face looking at me.”

    Klemente blocked the pillow with his arm and changed back. “You guys are too funny.”

    “You should ask Izzy if he has one. I think he’s still in bed.”

    “At this time? Eurgh.” Kamari turned around and walked back up the hall. “Isaac!”
    She dragged his name out as she marched, footsteps heavy on the varnished wooden floor. She stopped at his room – characterised by the poster of a dark haired woman surrounded by several small animals – and threw the door open.

    “Izzy! Wake up, I need a razor!” She walked to his bed, where a lump was totally covered with the sheets. Kamari grabbed the top and pulled them back, revealing the skinny, half asleep body of her roommate.

    “Eraser? I don’t have one,” he said, and reached for the sheets. His hand only found
    Kamari’s towel, and he went to pull it. Her long hair wrapped around his wrist and tossed it away, but not before pulling his fingers free.

    “That felt like a…” Isaac sat up quickly and looked at her. “Why are you in a towel?!”

    Kamari tossed her head, her hair obediently flicking over her shoulder and landing against her bare back. “I just got out of the shower, duh. I want a razor. I’m out. Also, you should get up. You look like a hobo and we all start work today.”

    “Don’t wanna.”

    “For chrissakes, you are twenty one years old and you have responsibilities! Get your arse outta bed, get me a razor, and get ready!”

    Isaac groaned and climbed out of bed. He scratched his bare hip as he made for the bathroom, and came back out a few seconds later with an almost-empty packet of disposable razors. Kamari fished her hand in and took one, nodded her thanks, and left.

    He put the two remaining razors down on his bathroom counter and began to run the shower.”

  31. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 1:40 am

    I sort of see what you’re going for (like Kamari having some sort of hair-manipulation), but I don’t think that I would have guessed that if you hadn’t told me beforehand. I think readers would have a better chance guessing that Klement is using a superpower to imitate her face, but I think that could be a bit clearer. (Readers will not usually leap to a supernatural explanation, so it helps to be a bit clearer the first time, I think).

    I think this scene could launch into a bit more story-relevant material right away. Her trying to get razors is not, by itself, extremely interesting. I think some more character development would also help. Of the characters, I feel like Isaac did pretty well in his (very short) appearance and I sort of liked the glimpse of the relationship between Tristam and Klement, but I feel like there could be more going on here.

    Foreshadowing the plot more might help keep readers interested while you build to the meat of the story, especially if you’re temporarily focused on something very different than the rest of the story. (For example, her getting razors probably isn’t very similar to whatever they do in chapter 2 and beyond). PS: Isaac (unknowingly) reaching for her towel might foreshadow an angle you’re not actually pursuing. If you feel like it might potentially mislead readers about the style of the story, it may be worth taking out.

  32. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 15 Apr 2011 at 2:42 am

    Okay, thanks. I’ll work on showing what they can do more clearly. ^_^

    The razor thing was pretty much just an excuse to introduce them quickly – when I need something, I ask pretty much everyone and go around the whole house until somebody can help. I’ll think up another way.

    What was it about Isaac that you thought I did well? If I can keep that standard up, this version will probably fare much better than my last attempt.

    My intention with the towel thing was just to make him more alert. I’ll cut it out and replace it. Like I said, I only just wrote that so it’s really rough and it’s more of an outline than anything.

    I’ve got the plot summary in my head but I need to type it out. I’ll post it in my forum when I’m done, side by side with my old one for comparison.

    Again, thanks for the help. ^_^

    PS: What’s with the captcha thingymadoodle for commenting now? Did you get spammed a lot since last time I was here?

  33. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 4:11 am

    No, spam has been exceedingly low. Akismet (my anti-spam plug-in) added the captcha on its own. The good news is that if you sign in, the captcha goes away.

  34. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 15 Apr 2011 at 4:35 am

    Ah, I see. An automatic update? At least this way, SN has less chance of ending up like Cracked.com with spam on every article advertising dating sites and diets.

    Hmm… I have to simplify my plot summary a lot because my latest one for my current version is about 1o00 words detailing everything so I can work from it. But to cut it down the most, I guess it would be:

    “Perth has never been known for its crime rate – because the people behind the world’s largest criminal empire are VERY good at keeping secrets. Four heroes, just graduated from the academy, must convince their superiors that the threat is very real – that, or end the ring without their help.”

    Probably something along those lines.

    PS: These captchas greatly amuse me. The one for this comment is “George Urratin”. I read it as “George, you’re a tin.”

  35. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 11:43 am

    Yeah, I was not terribly pleased about the automatic update. However, Akismet has done a great job keeping out spam and (until now) a pretty good job leaving actual people alone.

  36. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 15 Apr 2011 at 8:01 pm

    I hate automatic updates – when I switch my laptop on and it says “installing 1 of 3 updates”, I get really annoyed because I didn’t know it was going to update and take ten goddamn years to let me sign in. Especially when I need to know something last-minute, like directions just before I leave, or an address. Or when the urge to write strikes me and instead I’m staring at this blank screen making painfully slow progress.

    In that case I usually type whatever it is up on my iPod so I don’t forget, then email it to myself. When I sign onto my laptop, I go to my email, copy, paste, and edit out the textspeak. XD Some of my best lines have come from stuff like “nd thn hee pnchd hm nd he fel ova”.

    PS: The captcha this time is “Floffe Encour”. Sounds like a French Mary Sue name.

  37. B. Macon 15 Apr 2011 at 10:33 pm

    If you sign in, you don’t have to face the captcha. 🙂

  38. Novel manuscripts | Zwemplezieron 29 Mar 2012 at 9:32 am

    […] 10 Reasons Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected – Superhero NationFeb 8, 2011 … The manuscript isn’t finished yet! I’m not aware of any novel publishers that work with first-time novelists that haven’t completed the manuscript. « Asco vlave […]

  39. Nick Moonon 17 Aug 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Hey! I am writing a fantasy story. How does this plotline sound? I love royal themes so I incorporate that into my book.

    Am ambitious magistress plans to ascend to a high of magical prowess she has always felt as her soul and birthright. She is prohibited from doing so by her militant mother, sister of the Queen, and after learning upon the Queen’s entrapment in a celestial realm, she must make the hardest choice in her life as she battles to learn the forbidden magic and attempt to save her Queen and ultimately, her kingdom. Throughout her magical journey filled with the oppression of religions and opposing magical beliefs, to save her Queen and the humanity of her Kingdom from evil she must battle and destroy the one thing that raised her into life: her family.

  40. Nick Moonon 17 Aug 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Sorry that was *way* too long. Let me try again:

    An ambitious elven girl finds herself tangled in a celestial war, and the unfortunate villains she must fight are the very ones who brought her into the world: her family.

  41. B. McKenzieon 18 Aug 2013 at 10:40 am

    “An ambitious elven girl finds herself tangled in a celestial war, and the unfortunate villains she must fight are the very ones who brought her into the world: her family.” Some thoughts and suggestions:

    –I think the main character could come across as more interesting. The most substantial difference I picked up from this protagonist from most other fantasy protagonists is that she’s ambitious. I know this is a summary and not an opening line, but I’d suggest checking out the first 2 samples of opening lines here because I think they make a character immediately interesting.

    –The celestial war angle is not boring, but I think the summary could make it come across as more interesting in 1-2 sentences. If a publisher had 100 fantasy manuscripts about a character going to war (e.g. something like LOTR, Eragon, His Majesty’s Dragon, etc), why would this be the one they’d want to publish?

    –Your summary is 30 words. I think it could be shortened to 13 words without losing anything: “An ambitious elf finds herself tangled in a celestial war against her family.” That will help buy you more space/time/attention to spend on new details.

    –Which of the following summaries would make you want to read His Majesty’s Dragon more?
    1) “A British captain finds himself tangled in a war against Napoleon’s dragons.”
    2) “An aristocratic captain sacrifices himself for his men by hatching a captured dragon egg rather than making them do it, even though he will be demoted to rider. Now only he can stop Napoleon’s dragons from storming Britain.”

    I feel like #2 is much more effective because we see the character’s personality in action and how the character’s choices affect the story. In contrast, #1 makes him sound more passive… generally, passivity makes heroes sound less interesting. I’d recommend rewriting your summary so that the character comes across as more active.

  42. Esyon 21 Aug 2013 at 10:57 am

    Plz are you saying it is wrong to start a novel with the character waking up from bed and doing his morning routine bc i have a book am writing that started that way.This is it:
    Jude was having a terrible dream where he was being pursued by a big python inside an evil forest in his village,while he was struggling to jumb a bib hole the alarm clock in his room stroke four times and Jude woke with fear,hissed & rubbed his eyes with is right palm..
    Plz is this a wrong to start my novel?

  43. B. McKenzieon 21 Aug 2013 at 4:19 pm

    “Are you saying it is wrong to start a novel with the character waking up from bed and doing his morning routine? I’m writing a book that started that way.” If the opening does a good job showing what makes the character exciting and/or otherwise different than most of the characters in his genre, it’s an effective opening. If not, I’d recommend revisiting it when you’ve finished a draft of the novel (but would not recommend revising it now — please see #4 here).

  44. Delphineon 22 Jul 2014 at 3:06 am

    What if the author lives overseas?

  45. B. McKenzieon 22 Jul 2014 at 6:06 am

    “What if the author lives overseas?”

    Assuming that your manuscript is otherwise publishable, I don’t think being from another country would create major problems for your manuscript. (It may take an editor extra time to localize a work if you’re a U.S. author applying to a UK/Canadian/Australian publisher or vice versa, but if the work is generally easy to read for readers in the target, I don’t anticipate this would be a major problem*).

    Some reasons that living overseas might contribute to the manuscript NOT being otherwise publishable:
    –If the author is not actually fluent in the language he’s/she’s writing in, the manuscript is probably dead in the first few pages.
    –Characters may have unusually strong dialects and/or accents.
    –Maybe tripping across a major marketing or cultural issue unknowingly? (E.g. virtually every country’s military is highly popular among its own people, so negative portrayals of another country’s servicemen can be politically sensitive there).

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