AVOID REJECTION… AN EDITOR’S CHECK LIST
By DEE LLOYD
During my six years as Acquisitions Editor for the now-defunct LTDBooks I must have read several thousand submissions. Many of the manuscripts I reluctantly had to reject had much to offer. If the authors had looked carefully at the following aspects of their writing, my response might have been positive.
Here are the topics of some of my pet peeves.
THE CHECK LIST:
- Spelling and grammar. There is no more obvious fault to an editor than poor grammar and spelling. No matter how intriguing your opening scene is, faulty sentence structure and spelling errors will influence the editor’s decision. Even if you are confident about your writing skills, it is wise to have a knowledgeable person do a careful read through. Don’t rely solely on spell check. It will accept “There”, “their” and “they’re” because they are all properly spelled. Their meanings are totally different and their improper use is jarring.
- Compelling opening. Too much background information slows the beginning of your story. This is my most frequent reason to reject a novel. Save the backstory for the moment that you need it. The reader loses interest in long introductory paragraphs where the setting is lovingly set out and the characters’ backgrounds are given in detail.
- Believable characters. Know your characters in depth. Show me who the character is by how she behaves in a real, compelling situation. Don’t tell me she has been hurt in the past. Show me how she overreacts now. Explain later, much later. (Perhaps at a point when she has to explain her actions to someone.)
- Natural dialogue. Read your dialogue aloud. Make sure that each character has his or her own voice. The professor doesn’t use the same language or have the same rhythm to her speech as the man who is repairing her roof. (If he does have the same kind of vocabulary, there had better be an explanation for that.)
- Essential characters only. I always remember Timothy Findley saying in an article for students of creative writing, “Be prepared to kill your darlings.” Of course he was talking not only about editing out characters but about cutting delightful, poetic descriptions that kill the pace or might not be appropriate to the story you are telling.
- Point of view. Beware of having a character describe herself in a scene that is written from her point of view.
“How could he sit there cheerfully filling his face when he had just destroyed her world? Marcie blinked back the tears that were threatening to fill her sea-green eyes. Her waist-length, chestnut hair swayed as she stalked up to his table. She would fix his little wagon!” Make sure to include only what your character can experience personally (see, hear, taste, smell, think, remember, etc.). In this example, Marcie obviously cannot see her own hair or eyes. The reader is jerked out of Marcie’s mind for the description, then back into it. Don’t lose the reader/character connection.
- Length of sentences. Don’t write too many long sentences. I have no objection to long sentences; however, in this day of dedicated ereaders and smaller screens, I have found that they can lose their effectiveness. When I started to read on my first electronic hand-held device several years ago, I noticed that shorter sentences had more punch. Be careful though that you don’t fall into the trap of beginning each short sentence with the subject. Sentence fragments must be used even more judiciously because the smaller page makes everything more obvious.
- Similarity in character names. I got myself into a bind by being too cute about the names of a couple of gorgeous twins in CHANGE OF PLANS. Calling them Bret and Bart was funny, I thought, for a couple of secondary characters. However, when I had some requests for a story for Bret, and wrote GHOST OF A CHANCE, I was stuck with the names. And it wasn’t easy to prevent confusion. Then Bart got his story in UNQUIET SPIRITS! Be careful.
- Word count. This is more important in a print book than in an ebook. In an ebook, the prescribed length of the manuscript is the length of the story. However, be aware that many publishers release ebook and print simultaneously. Before submitting to any publishing house read the guidelines carefully and follow them. Most publishers posts guidelines on their websites.
- Your text must be tight and move along. No reader will tolerate an author wallowing in description or in long, unnecessary philosophic dissertation. Nothing puts a reader (or this editor) off faster than a sermon or a political statement passed off as a novel.
These are the most common areas for rejection. My best advice is to read books the publishing house you are targeting has already released. Each house has a style and a tone which is hard to describe. Make sure your story fits that style.
Good luck with your writing career.
About Dee Lloyd
Growing up in Timmins, in its gold mining heyday, gave Dee Lloyd her love of dramatic scenery, strong men and independent women. It taught her nothing is impossible with determination and hard work. Still in grade school, she told a reporter for the Timmins Daily Press that she was going to be a writer. Many careers–ranging from selling in a music store to teaching creative writing–later, she is doing just that.
Dee is now the award-winning author of seven romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. TIES that Blind won the EPPIE Award for best contemporary romance. Her paranormal/reincarnation/ghost novel, OUT of HER DREAMS, was the 2010 EPIC award winner for Paranormal Romance. It was also a nominee for Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for best Paranormal Romance.
Dee was married to Terry Sheils, award-winning author of horror, mystery, and fantasy, for over forty years. Dee states, “Writing has always been as essential as breathing in our house.”
Dee’s life is full. She lives with a wild and wonderful Mini-labradoodle named Meg. Her daughters are supportive and dynamic. And of course, the grandchildren are exceptional. The icing on the cake is the growing number of enthusiastic readers who write to tell her they enjoy her books. Visit Dee’s website for news, free excerpts, short stories, and a free downloadable cookbook. Visit her website at http://www.deelloyd.com.
Find Dee on her author page at Writers Exchange: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Dee-Lloyd.html
Dee is the author of:
Dangerous Waters Trilogy
Dashing heroes set out to protect the women of their dreams as they travel by boat over the Caribbean and the Bahamas, even to a clear lake in Muskoka, where romance–and deception–will take them all into Dangerous Waters.
Inheriting Pop’s property brings Cadie unexpected complications ranging from a devastating, antisocial tenant to a potential gold mine, a silent, deadly enemy, and, as if that isn’t enough, love when and where she least expects it.
…Mine by Dee Lloyd sure is one of those books where you wish it were a movie because of all the action and suspense in this one story…
~ Fallen Angel Reviews
TIES That Blind
A body in a garage. A revolver in a locked car. A chance meeting of two old friends on a plane. Is this a happy reunion…or a devious frame-up for murder?
The Risa Vitale that Adam Taggart remembers as a skinny daredevil kid trailing him around the ski club never showed any signs of becoming the attractive woman who greets him as he disembarks from a flight. His uncomplicated happiness at their reunion, however, ends shortly after she offers him a ride. Finding a revolver under his seat and a pool of blood in the back of her van quashes any hope of attraction. The biggest romance killer of all: The dead body of his stepsister in Risa’s parents’ garage!