Yesterday's post noted 20 possible reasons for rejections that are easy to avoid. Today, it gets trickier:
20 possible reasons for rejection, that have to do with your writing craft and skills…and a few tips on what you can do about it next time around:
- Your opening lines were forgettable.
- Your cover note summed up the entire piece, it didn't sound fabulous, and so the editor never bothered to read the work.
- Your piece was riddled with poor grammar, improper usage, spelling/punctuation errors. (Message: I am a lazy writer.)
- Your piece was poorly organized. (You rushed, or you don't yet understand what you really want to say on the page, or you need more feedback or experience.)
- Your work is very clearly not at the same level of skill and craft as that which the venue routinely publishes. (You didn't spend enough time studying what's published there or you weren't honest with yourself.)
- Your work reads like an early draft, instead of a meticulously revised final manuscript.
- Your work is riddled with adverbs (instead of good verbs) or is written in a passive voice or commits some other obvious crime against prose.
- Your dialogue is stilted, tedious, inauthentic, or filled with banalities ("Hi," she said. "Oh hi," he answered.)
- Your work is loaded down with trite and expected clichés, overused idioms, too-common similes, poorly constructed metaphors, tired old phrases.
- You shift tenses and/or points of view for no reason, or you do so clumsily.
- It's dull to read. (Your language range and vocabulary inventory need a boost.)
- Your work lacks conflict or tension; no one wants anything.
- Your work has a happy-ever-after, all-wrapped-up-in-a-pretty-bow ending.
- You have a strong opening and/or ending, but a too-soft middle.
- You have a strong middle, but a lousy opening and/or ending.
- You didn't tie up (or at least acknowledge) the loose strings the piece raises.
- Your work makes it clear that you are not reading enough in your genre.
- You have written about a subject that has been completely over-exposed, or its time has come and gone, and/or you just do not have a fresh enough new angle on it.
- You have copied another writer's well-known style too closely and your work reads like an imitative writing exercise.
- You love to use exclamation points !!! or you overuse (and incorrectly use) the ellipsis…or you love the em dash but don't know its proper usage -- or you randomly use § dingbats or white
space breaks in places that make no sense, all/any of which weakens the overall effectiveness of the prose.
In Part One, I discussed 20 possible easy-to-avoid reasons why your work/query was rejected; you can read it here.
Update: Now, part three has been posted - 20 or so reasons for rejection that do and don't make sense but are still often true.