I’m editing my first draft of my current WIP, and I went back to my notes I keep on the reasons why I don’t feel I can recommend manuscripts to the agent I intern for. I looked back at the last eight months and was surprised to see that there were quite a few of the same reasons repeated. Of course, my analytical side took over and I had to figure out what was the number one reason I recommended a pass. Then I couldn’t stop. I had to find out what was the second reason…and the third and so on. I thought I’d share with you the top three reasons:
1. Pacing–This number far surpassed the others. I mostly read thrillers so this one needs to be done right for that genre as it’s a big component of the story. But there were other genres that I’d read where it was the main problem too.
2. Lack of conflict–Usually the manuscripts that fall in this category aren’t all rainbows and unicorns, but there isn’t enough conflict or not enough of the right conflict to carry the reader through to the end of the story.
3. Too Passive–I’m talking about the main character here. If your main character is not the hero/oine of his/her story and someone else comes to the rescue at the end, then your MC is too passive. Also, if your MC only reacts to things happening in the story and comes through at the end, that too is a no-go. The MC has to be the hero/oine and has to make the reader want to follow them to the end. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the hero/oine always prevails. Oh no, quite the opposite, they need quite a few failures before they win. (This one surprised me. I thought for sure it would be too much narrative thought but that one came in fourth.)
I’m sure you can guess what I’ll be looking for in my own story and what I’ll be asking my critique partners to look for as well. In addition, my own major red flag is that I tell too much and don’t show enough. That will be on the list too.