Why would an acquisitions editor reject a story by a good writer?
The answer is often, I can’t tell what the story is about. This response, or its cousins The conflict was slow to emerge, and There’s no story here, shows that structural problems are spoiling the party and you need a developmental editor.
But developmental editors are pricey
It’s handy (and inexpensive) to learn some of the tricks of the trade of the developmental editor. Here are a few, remembering that everybody, of course, works differently:
- If you’re a planning outliner, you might outline, not just the plot, but the plot for every character. (You’ll still surprise yourself when you draft.) If you’re more of a “pantser,” then outline after you’ve done the job. You’ll see what, if anything, is missing.
- Act 1 is the set-up; Act 2 is the Fun and Games (see Blake Snyder, Save the Cat) and Darkest Hour; Act 3 is the Showdown and Finale. If you have all these, and you’re still a good writer getting turned down, then you might be writing in a linear fashion. You’ll need to tweak unexpected, previously set-up, twists and turns. You get these when characters make tough choices they would never previously make. (see Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel.)
- To set your POV, make sure the first page, and every scene start after that, sets up the following: Time of Day, Place (setting, era), the Promise of Genre, Tone, and a hint at the Central Conflict.
- To keep readers, including acquisitions editors, carrying the torch of interest from the end of one scene to the start of the next, look at each scene ending and remove any last sentences that seem to finish things off.
“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” – Truman Capote.
I hope you’ll have another great week in your writing career. Cheers Mel.
Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and the Monument Studios Mysteries starring Frankie Ray as The Extra. Mel is Senior Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.
If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here.
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