Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 2018 - Why are stories rejected by editors, agents, and readers?

For 2018, all the monthly topics have been submitted to me by writers and readers of this blog.

The question posed for this month is— 


There are many reasons why stories get rejected by readers, editors, agents, and also why stories receive low scores from contest judges. Here are seven of the most common ones:

1. Poor writing ability

What's written forces the reader to re-read because the reader cannot instantly grasp images or understand what's going on. Sentences are often long, run-on, awkwardly formed, poorly punctuated, etc. Cause-effect sequences are missing or glossed over and so things don't make sense. 

2. Poor storytelling ability

A lot of aspects fall under "poor storytelling ability." Basically, it's the failure of a writer to understand what a story is, what plot is, what character arcs are, and why a reader reads a particular genre. 

Poor storytelling ability also results in cardboard, two-dimensional characters that are puppets being manipulated by the author for the sake of a convoluted or irrational plot that makes little sense.

What's written might also be a vignette or series of vignettes, a rant, or a poorly disguised religious tenet. Worse is a thinly disguised storyline taken from an existing movie, TV show, computer game, or publication, or one which is borderline "fan fiction." These often violate copyrights as well as turn a reader off.

3. Submitting or self-publishing a first draft

Many stories get rejected because the writer submits a first draft or too early a draft. For writers who self-publish too soon, their story is riddled with typos, mistakes, errors of logic or premise, unbelievable elements, poor storytelling techniques and devices, etc.

What can make the difference between a drafted story and a polished one is ruthlessly and painstakingly self-editing the work. However, most writers have no idea how to self-edit or what they should be self-editing for.

TIP — To go from initial draft to polished manuscript requires running a story through the filtering lens of knowledgeable writers (either worthwhile critique groups or critique partners). Of course, all writing benefits in the final stage by hiring a professional fiction editor (not an English teacher).

5. What's written is excessively or grossly violent, perverse, depraved, offensive, pornographic, libelous, weird, or wholly unbelievable. 

6. What's written is not appropriate for the age of the reader it was intended for. This is particularly true for children's books.

7. The subject has been done to death (it's a beleaguered trope or cliched topic). Along with tropes, the publishing markets have ups and downs—a particular story element may have gone out of favor with readers or the market has been saturated with too many similar stories. 

As I've said many times over the years, talent will take a writer only so far. It is craft that enhances and liberates talent. Always strive to learn craft and to write the best story possible.

***Next Month: June 2018 — Pros and Cons of Writing Every Day

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