Skip to main content

Why Your Manuscript Can Get Rejected (Part 2)

At Killer Nashville, a trio of extremely knowledgeable publishing pros held a panel on the most common reasons why a manuscript is rejected by an agent. This is part two of this post series.

At 2007 Killer Nashville, a trio of extremely knowledgeable publishing pros held a panel on the most common reasons why a manuscript is rejected by an agent. Below you'll find part two of this post series.

Keep in mind that the panelists were discussing why a manuscript will be rejected, not a novel synopsis or query letter. They were talking about problems within the writing.

Panelist No. 2: Donna Bagdasarian

Image placeholder title

Donna's top reasons why your manuscript can be rejected:

1. Problems with basic writing skills—grammar, syntax, defining who the protagonist is. To be successful, aspiring writers must learn how to write—well.

2. Bad dialogue. Write like people speak.

3. Too much plot. Writers may read a variety of books by bestselling mystery authors and then try to take plot elements from several of these books, combining those elements into one convoluted tale. Write one book, not eight books crammed into one.

4. Not having the protagonist involved in the climax.

5. Spending too much time at the beginning of a story on a character who seems to be the protagonist, but isn't.

6. Supplanting quality for a gimmick. Take a moment and examine certain gimmicks, such as the following:

—Writing in the second person

—Having many points of view

—Having your book be very, very dark in nature

—Having scenes in a backwards order

—Hopscotch (where you can jump around anywhere and the story still makes sense)

These gimmicks are unique, and can produce an extraordinary book, but they can only be pulled off by the most superior of writers—and most writers are not superior writers. Therefore, writers should pass on all such gimmicks and just try to tell a good story.

7. Excessive and salacious material. When your manuscript is complete and a peer/editor says "It needs more violence/sex/action/dialogue," they may be right, but inserting these aspects in the book must make sense. There can’t just be violence or sex in a story simply to have it. Make it work.

8. Know how much is too much. If you can cut a scene and the story still works, you must cut it. Ask of the scene: "Why is it here? What does it do to further the plot?"

9. Purple prose—writing where the reader is conscious that these are the author’s thoughts, not the character's. This is prose where the language is excessively flowery and/or lyrical.

Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 2.57.50 PM

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

Image placeholder title

Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
Create Your Writer Platform shows you how to
promote yourself and your books through social
media, public speaking, article writing, branding,
and more. 
Order the book from WD at a discount.


Interviewing Tips | Tyler Moss

Interviewing 101: Tips for Writers

Interviewing sources for quotes or research will be part of any writer's job. Here are tips to make the process as smooth and productive as possible.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Eliminate Threat

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Eliminate Threat

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character work to eliminate a threat.

4 Tips for Writing Gothic Horror

4 Tips for Writing Gothic Horror

Gothic horror and its many subgenres continues to increase in popularity. Here, author Ava Reid shares 4 tips on writing gothic horror.

Lucy Clarke: On the Power of Creativity

Lucy Clarke: On the Power of Creativity

Novelist Lucy Clarke discusses how a marathon of writing led to a first draft in just 17 days for her new psychological thriller, One of the Girls.

A Conversation With Jaden Terrell on Writer Expectations, Part 1 (Killer Writers)

A Conversation With Jaden Terrell on Writer Expectations, Part 1 (Killer Writers)

Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford continues his series of interviews with mystery, thriller, and suspense authors. Here he has a conversation with novelist Jaden Terrell about writer expectations and success.

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Connecting the Dots vs. Drawing the Whole Damn Picture: A Veteran Ghostwriter Takes Back His Pen and Finds Something To Say

Writing for oneself after a decades-long career as a ghostwriter is a challenge unto itself. Here, author Daniel Paisner discusses his career as a ghostwriter, how the process differs from writing his own work, and if the two ever intersect.

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Who Are Sensitivity Editors? And How Much Does Sensitivity Reading Pay?

Sensitivity readers offer a very specific and focused edit to manuscripts. Here, C. Hope Clark shares what a sensitivity editor is, how much it pays, and where you can start.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 615

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a desire poem.