Why Your Manuscript Can Get Rejected (Part II)

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. Here you'll find part two of this post series.
Publish date:

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. Below you'll find part two of this post series. (The first installment was with Hallie Ephron.)

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.


FightWrite™: Crime Fiction and Violence

Author and trained fighter Carla Hoch answers a writer's question about writing from the perspective of criminals and when best to utilize a fight.

Poetic Forms

Sedoka: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the sedoka, a 6-line question and answer Japanese form.


Plot Twist Story Prompts: Dream Sequence

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let your characters dream a little dream.

WD Vintage_Armour 12:03

Vintage WD: Don't Hide Your Light Verse Under a Bushel

In this article from 1960, poet and author Richard Armour explores the importance of light verse and gives helpful hints to the hopeful poet.


Tessa Arlen: On Polite Editorial Tussles and Unraveling Mysteries

In this article, author Tessa Arlen explains how to navigate the differences between American and English audiences and create a realistic historical mystery.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 547

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 lazy poem.


Denise Williams: Romance, Healing, and Learning to Love Revisions

Author Denise Williams recounts her experience with writing her first book while learning about the publishing industry and the biggest surprise about novel revisions.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2020 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 13th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.