Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The reasons for the Big R

I came across a writer's statement on a blog recently that said the main reason stories get rejected is because of the presentation, the little things - typos and grammatical errors, etc.

Can I just say that I strongly disagree?

Don't get me wrong. YES, our stories should be well put together and YES our stories should be as clean and perfect as they can be in regards to appearance and presentation. If you see a typo, fix it. Before you submit a proposal to an agent or editor, get a fresh pair of eyes to read over it and help find those little mistakes you glazed over. By all means, DO THIS. Do it well.

But that's NOT why stories get rejected.

I honestly believe from my own experiences and what I've heard in the industry (along with a healthy dose of common sense and been-there, done-that) that this is simply not the case.

Maybe this writer who claimed this is honestly mistaken, or maybe he was just trying to put an emphasis (which is indeed needed) on the importance of presentation in the industry...or maybe he was just in denial. Regardless, he's entitled to his opinion. But I think a little differently.

Stories get rejected for multiple reasons, that are quite varied, and some of which we might never even get to know. It all depends on the editor and the publisher and the agent and a hundred other factors. But the main reasons I hear, see, have experienced, or heard from close friends, all comes back to two main points: Story, and Timing.

Story - this is the reason that hurts the most. Being rejected for using a comma instead of a semi colon would be cause for outrage and a lot of ice cream, to be sure. But getting rejected because our story simply didn't resonate with the editor or wasn't in their opinion "good enough" for their house, hurts like all get out! We've probably all been there at some point or will (sorry, but it's true. We learn and grow, write again, learn and grow, write again...) Story is the main essence of our novels (don't say duh, hear me out ::wink::) Story is what makes the readers turn pages, what brings the characters to life and makes the reader CARE and get involved and possibly even have their view of life altered by the end. To put it simply - Story is what makes readers read. If the story is not up to par, this won't happen. Not for the agent, not for the editor, not for the commitee team, and not for the reader a year later.

I can't sit here and say "follow this formula and do this and this and then that, and you'll have a winning, fail-proof super story" because it's not that simple. Stories can fail for numerous reasonns, and trying to list them here would take me until Thanksgiving. Story must be composed with heart and instinct and experience, and to be honest, if you want it to change lives - prayer.

Do you pray over your novels? Just a side thought there...

Timing - This is perhaps the most frustrating of rejections, and I've been here numerous times. Rejections based on timing means getting feedback from the editor that goes something like "I loved your story, and I'm sending it to acquisitions" and you getting all geared up, then hearing a month later "sorry, I still love your story, and the committee did too but its not what we need for our line up right now."

Ouch. And grrr.

This is where as Christian authors, we have to trust God's timing and trust that He is at work in these publishing houses and knows the best placement of our stories. He knows who needs to read your book and He knows when they need to read it - and if that doesn't match up with this house's commitee meeting, it's not going to happen, and frankly, we shouldn't want it to. As Christian writers we should want God's ultimate best for us. And yes, that's easier said than done, but something to certainly put into practice as often as we can. :)

So back to my original point - rejections happen, to everyone, and they happen a lot, and they happen for various reasons. But seriously, have you ever received feedback from a submission that basically said "We loved your story and wish we could publish it, but sorry, you had a typo on page 4, a spelling error on page 32, and an ink smudge on page 45."??? NO. You haven't. That is why copy editors exist ;)

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?


  1. I think you are right Betsy. Although I stink at grammar and can see if it submitted something with getting a good handle on my grammar being rejected. They are probably talking about when the whole thing has bad grammar not just sporadic problems.

    To bump from yesterday- does brainstorming get easier with time & practice?

  2. I think it does, girl. Everything gets easier, typically, when you keep trying. The brain is a muscle, you gotta exercise it! ;) Sometimes it can help too to brainstorm with someone who is not a writer, but an avid reader. Toss ideas around about what they'd like to read.

  3. Hey, I just want you to know that I love your blog. Reading your blog posts always make my day! Love you!

    Every time I think of you I thank God for you. (Phil. 1:3)