9 (Arbitrary) Ways to Get Your Writing Rejected
So many ways to write badly -- so little time!
Posted Sep 25, 2010
Having spent many years putting hours of effort and creativity into my own work -- sending off brown envelopes filled with still-warm pages, to various editors and judges -- it is rather horrifying to discover that it takes me about a minute to know that yet another manuscript is about to be "binned" as they say. In a sort of apology, I feel the least I can do is to reveal a few of the instant signs that your writing genius will not be discovered by the judges this time around!
What follows is a few of Simonson's deal-killers, from her only somewhat tongue-in-cheek article "Ten ways to get your writing rejected':
- Your male character is carrying around a battered and much-loved copy of a Dostoevsky, Wittgenstein or Rimbaud -- guaranteed to get you moved to the "Pretentious? Moi?" pile.
- Your female character, the "love interest" of your hero, has a "dancer's body" and/or "jutting hip bones." I'll personally take those jutting hip bones (says Simonson), and raise you a donut, as I casually toss it into the "get my own back on skinny youth" pile.
- The hand of God as plot resolution.
- Your careful depiction of suburban alienation and the empty materialism of bourgeois marriage, will be put in the "suburban alienation and bourgeois marriage" pile, so that in a later round, I and some colleagues can lay out the ten or twelve similar manuscripts and pick the one least likely to make us go home and ask for a divorce.
- Personal information relating to your significant psychological issues or your desire to travel with Bertie the parrot (particular to residential writing programs).
AND YET MORE DEAL KILLERS
And here are a few of my own additions to the "get rejected fast" list:
- Begin the story with long paragraphs of description, not a character or bit of action in sight.
- Include numerous cliches on the first page.
- Spend inordinate amounts of time telling readers whenever a character opens and walks through a door.
- Construct every sentence, especially in dialogues, as a complete and grammatically correct sentence.
In reality, agents and editors (and contest screeners) rarely provide specifics as to why they've turned something down. The most you'll usually get is a general brush-off, something like, "While your writing and the storyline are good, I wasn't sufficiently drawn in to take this on." Entertain me better, is what they mean.
And that is a product of putting together all the positives, avoiding all the negatives, a lot of luck, much persistence, and reaching one of the publishing gatekeepers on a day she hasn't had an overdue tax notice in the mail.
Copyright (c) 2010 by Susan K. Perry