Authors submitting their novels to the Awesome Indies have most often had their work copy edited and usually have a fairly good story—I wouldn’t submit to us unless I was confident of those two things. Even so, we reject 40-50% of novels, and many otherwise excellent books are rejected for the same reasons—lack of line editing.
Unfortunately, some of these authors have paid large sums to have their books edited only to find that they don’t pass our criteria. Either their editor has not line edited (as distinct from copy edited), or they don’t have the knowledge needed to effectively line-edit fiction. Not all editors understand that good writing is more than correct grammar. So choose your editor carefully; make sure they are experienced in fiction editing and offer line-editing as distinct from copy editing.
I have been fortunate enough to have studied with Selena Hanet-Hutchins, one of the top fiction editors in Australia, and her tips have been invaluable in improving my own writing and in evaluating where other’s writing falls down. These tips are not common knowledge, and yet if you read the chapter on sophistication in our recommended book, ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King, much of the information needed to avoid these common issues is there. Links to articles on how to avoid these common faults are also listed on our Explanation of the Criteria page. I particularly recommend the articles on how to show rather than tell.
It’s also a good idea to read the 1959 edition of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, edited by E. B. White. Despite its age and causing confusion by not differentiating between passive voice and passive writing, it still has helpful information for the beginning writer. Download a free copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White .
Below is a list of the most common causes of rejection.
The main causes of rejection by the Awesome Indies reviewers are:
- Over-writing, including but not limited to, excessive adverbs and adjectives.
- Passive writing, often in the form of:
- an over use of forms of the verb ‘to be’ e.g., was, were, are etc
- an overuse of ‘ing’ ending verb. ‘ed’ forms are stronger and more immediate. For example: He stiffened, setting his coffee down, tearing off the communication and relaxing back on his chair. A much better construction would be: He stiffened, set his coffee down, tore off the communication and relaxed back on his chair.
- An excessive use if the construction that begins a sentence with an ‘ing’ ending verb. No more than one per 10,000 words is the guide used by Selena.
- Excessive use of the very uninteresting and usually redundant ‘there was’ and, ‘there were’, particularly at the start of sentences.
There are more things, of course, but these are the common reasons why we reject otherwise good books. I suggest that authors interested in submitting their books to us, read the links in this article as well as those on the Explanation of the Criteria page.
Authors, does your writing have any of these issues?
Post by Tahlia Newland, Awesome Indies reviewer, editor and award-winning metaphysical fiction writer. Read more from her on her blog. You can also join her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ or Linkedin.