We’ve received quite a few submissions already, but have not yet found a gem we’d be happy to recommend to our readers. So we thought we’d put out a list of why you might receive a rejection.
- Telling, telling, and more telling. This is our number one pet peeve. If you look at your first chapter and see the emotion words “guilty, sad, happy, relieved, excited, scared,” you can expect to receive an automatic rejection. Instead of saying “Sadness overcame her,” try, “Her vision blurred and her lower lip trembled.” Readers are smart. They’ll figure out she’s sad, and they’ll have a much better reading experience if you show your characters’ emotions.
- Head jumping. This is a huge no-no for us. Readers should hear the internal thoughts of one character and one character only. Mind you, you can alternate perspectives in different chapters, but shouldn’t do so within the same chapter, and certainly not within the same scene. This can be tricky, like in the case of “Confusion was written across his face.” Here, one character is observing another and reading into their expression. But they can’t truly tell what he’s thinking. Not to mention this sentence is passive AND tells rather than shows. Instead, you could say, “His brow dipped in the center and he squinted at me through one eye.” Follow this with appropriate dialogue, and you’ve made your point without moving into head-jumping territory.
- Passive writing/settings. Passive writing is an easy trap to fall into. Mind you, it does get the message across, but it also lacks the “something extra” a scene needs to draw the reader in. So how can you replace passive, tired description with a section that’s lively and hopping with action? Say you’ve written, “The room was large.” Short and to the point, but it doesn’t paint a picture. A better option would be, “My feet padded across a plush, red runner that led from one end of the room to the other, past rows of bookcases and brightly trimmed windows.” Changing it up not only introduces vivid imagery of the room, it gives the scene a sense of motion.
- Clichés. New writers find it hard to let go of clichés. Like really, really hard. Examples of clichés are “black as night, proud as a peacock, mix like oil and water…” And what’s funny is that some clichés don’t even make sense. Like “dumb as a box of rocks.” Last time I checked, rocks had no ability to think whatsoever. This is a chance to come up with your OWN metaphors. Be creative. You’re a writer! Don’t fall back on the same overused clichés just because they’re the first things that pop into your head.
- Forced/unbelievable dialogue. A writer’s job is to create a thrilling/heart-wrenching/comedic/scary experience similar to that of a movie, but without the luxury of talented actors, stunt doubles or special effects to help make your scene pop. What you do have is your characters’ actions and dialogue (both internal and external) to translate your words into a vivid scene in your reader’s mind. Not an easy task to be sure. And forced or unbelievable dialogue can kill a scene in seconds. This is especially true for middle grade and young adult books. Do the characters sound like teens? Like, for real? Or do they sound like adults attempting to be teens? Nothing turns off a reader more than when a character says something out of…well, character, for them. Another pet peeve we have is when a character’s actions and dialogue don’t match or seem off. For instance, if you have a character battling slimy green aliens, sweat seeping from her pores, she shouldn’t be thinking about what she’s going to have for dinner later. Unless of course, you’re writing a parody. Then something like this would be acceptable.
And there you have it, the top 5 reasons why we may reject your book. If you’re in the process of writing your next story, it would be a good idea to keep these common writing mistakes in the forefront of your mind. It will give you the best chance at pleasing fans and creating an Amazing book we’d be proud to review for our readers.