On March 25th Monday, 9 pm I did an Instagram Live session with Blogchatter on why publishers reject manuscripts & how to rework your MS so that it gets accepted. This post details everything I spoke about in the session.
'We regret to inform you…'
This is without fail the worst nightmare of every writer; the other being the dreaded writer's block. To receive the rejection mail is a nightmare every author has gone through.
I got rejected too. My 1st book – A Forgotten Affair – was published by Harper Collins with much aplomb. They loved the book and gave me a launch that aspiring authors dream of. It was truly a dream come true for me. The book did well. So you can imagine my horror and surprise when book 2 was rejected by them.
To put it mildly, I was angry, upset, humiliated and more angry with myself. How could I let this happen? What is wrong with my story that they said no? Everyone was already asking me about my second book and I was sitting staring at the rejection mail. I wanted to disappear.
So why do publishers reject manuscripts?
You think your story is quite similar to some of the books they publish, so why are they rejecting your MS. You don't know but you've answered your question. If they already have an established author in their fold, why will they put their money and faith on a new author who writes similar stuff. The first version of my book 2 got rejected because the story was just a normal relationship drama with nothing great to offer. My reworked version is a dark psychological thriller with an interesting narrative structure. The edit team HarperCollins fell in love with it and declared it as one of the lead titles for the year 2019.
So while writing in the genre that you chose, your story must be compelling and have a punch that grabs attention of the edit team.
How did I rework the story?
I rewrote the story in a new and different way. A different version of the story had been buzzing in my head and I decided to dive into that and flesh out the story. I used mind mapping techniques to plot the story and around this time I discovered Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer which is now my Bible. Those of you who are struggling to rewrite your MS, please buy & read this book. I'm not getting paid to talk about the book, I'm talking about it because it helped me immensely while rewriting. I kept only a slim skeleton of the earlier story, deleted characters, added new ones and changed the narrative style completely. Book 2 is written in first person, in simple present and simple past tense; telling the current & back story. The story unfolds in the voice of 3 principal characters, none of them is the protagonist. She speaks only in the end.
I need to carry out developmental edit. How do I do it?
I have a very simple rule that I blindly follow. WHEN IN DOUBT, FOLLOW THE MASTERS. Pick up international bestsellers of the genre that you are writing and make them your teacher. Read. Re-read and then read again; till the narrative style, characterization and plot is embedded in your head. Now assess your MS with it; learn from the bestselling author. Let the bestselling author & book be your teacher. Read, underline and think how the plot moves, what are the twists & turns, how has the author developed characters. The only way to learn, is to just do it. There's no short cut, no quick fix. Dive into it, thrash around; you'll eventually learn how to swim.
Can my friends be my beta readers?
It depends on how honest and critical your friends can be with you. I usually give my MS to a friend who is a superb writer, has a critical eye and offers superb suggestions. Also please bear in mind that you must give your MS to a person who reads the genre you've written. No point in giving your commercial fiction MS to a friend who is into Lit fiction or non-fiction. So select your beta reader carefully.
Rejection isn't personal
It feels personal. It is humiliating but please try not to take it personally. You aren't being rejected, it's your MS. So get over your bruised ego and get down to work. The story wouldn't write itself. You have to do it. And we all know that writing is a solitary journey but surround yourself with friends who write so that you have company. It's important to share your anxiety, fears and doubts.
As I like to say: The fault is not in your stars or you. It's in the story, so script a better one.
Best of luck and just write-away!!