Monday, February 12, 2018

Tip Time

It's Tip Time!  This month, I thought I would talk a bit about deciphering rejectionshow to figure out what something means and what to ask yourself when you see certain comments.  I figured this would be a good tip since I often get emails from authors asking for clarification on passes and also spend a lot of time analyzing editor feedback with my authors when we get rejections on our submissions.

The most common feedback that I see from editors:

1. The voice/story isn't quite working for me.
This usually means the writing isn't engaging enough.  When I see comments like this, I go back through the manuscript with the author to see if we're telling too much instead of showing, if we are using dynamic language that creates a connection between the reader and the character, and if the story line falls flat anywhere and doesn't keep the plot moving forward/feeling compelling.

If you see a comment like this, ask yourself if your MC's POV is feels fresh and three-dimensional, if your plot is moving at the right pace, and if there is enough going on at all times to keep the reader interested and turning the page.
2. I'm having a hard time connecting to the characters.
Similar to the first comment, this can mean that there is too much telling of how a character feels/reacts instead of showing moments that let us get inside his/her head.  A lot of times, I see manuscripts from writers where I am constantly told that a character is scared or is thinking XYZ instead of been shown through sensory description that makes me feel like I am scared or thinking XYZ right along with that character.

Is that language there and is the character fully fleshed out and three-dimensional?  Is there's a perspective that is exciting or one that is too familiar for the genre?

3. I just didn't fall in love/the story didn't grab me.
When I see this comment several times from several editors, it usually means I have to talk to my author about how to make the plot more standout and high-concept to break away from other books in the genre.  Are we telling a narrative that needs to be told and are we telling it in the right way or are we rehashing a story line that has already been done? 

When you see a comment like this, ask yourself how your story is different from its comp titles.  What makes it unique and hooky?

The most common questions I get asked when I pass on an author's submission:

1. Can you give me examples about XYZ thing that you said?
I should start by saying that I do my best to give helpful, thoughtful feedback on everything that I request.  For instance, I may tell you that the voice sounded too young for the genre or plot.  When agents tell you something isn't working, they may not have time to give you specific examples of what they're talking about, so it's important to be able to pinpoint what they mean, which usually means research.

If an agent tells you something like your voice is too young, to gain more clarity, a good idea is to read comp titles for your manuscript to see the kind of language those authors use and how mature their characters are to give you a sense of where you stand and bring clarity to where you need to age things up.

2. Can I send this to you again?
l will specifically invite authors to try me again with a project if I want to continue seeing it.  If an agent doesn't ask you to resend once you revise, it doesn't mean that the project isn't good, though.  It may be that they don't feel passionately enough to take it on, even in its best form, or that they just don't have enough time.

Not being asked for an R&R just means that agent isn't the right match for that particular project.  If you're getting a lot of helpful suggestions for revisions, but no R&Rs, then I advise doing your homework to make sure you are submitting to agents actively looking for stories in your genre or potentially deciding that you need to put this project on the back burner and see if the next one brings you to the next level.

3. What does "publishing is very subjective" mean?
I know that a lot of writer see this as a stock line, but it's true!  It can be easy to feel deflated by a rejection, but a pass from one agent doesn't mean your project doesn't have merit, but that it's not right for that specific person.  

Publishing really is truly subjective, which can make it feel like trying to hit a moving target, but it does really come down to having the right project at the right time and sending it to the right people.  As an example, I just don't like stories set in the '60s or '70s.  I don't know why--I just don't.  So if you send me something that takes place during that time period, I won't be as intrigued as another agent and my rejection and feedback may not carry as much weight.

Well, that's my tip for February!  Let me know if you thought it was helpful or if there's anything you wish I'd explain further...or any rejections comments you've gotten that you want to decipher!!