Why Didn’t I Say Yes to Your Novel?
When an agent or editor requests your partial or full manuscript, it’s nerve wracking to wait and wonder, day after day, if they’re reading it and whether they like it. If they finally decide not to offer representation, it hurts and you just want to know… why?
Most agents try to offer some kind of explanation if they’re saying no to a requested manuscript. But giving this kind of feedback is sometimes more difficult than you might think. Each manuscript usually has some good points, and some not-so-good. Often we agonize over our decision. It’s good, but is it good enough? I like it, but will others like it? Are the positives enough to overcome the negatives?
Before I try to analyze exactly what’s going on with a manuscript, I try to experience it as a reader would. I pay attention to my gut as I’m reading.
You know how sometimes you’re reading a book and you don’t want to put it down, and you’re really frustrated that it’s time to go make dinner or put the kids to bed, and you just want everyone to leave you alone so you can read your book? And whenever you’re doing something else, you just want to be finished so you can get back to reading your book?
But other times you’re reading a book, and it’s easy to put down. You find yourself distracted. You go check your email, or see what’s on TV. Or fall asleep. Not that you can really define anything bad about the book, it’s simply not holding your attention. And when you have some time to read, you debate whether to go back to that book or not.
I have the same kinds of responses when I’m reading manuscripts, and I’m paying close attention to my responses. Do I want to keep reading? When I’m doing something else, am I eager to get back to reading the manuscript? If not, I will probably pass.
Of course, I can usually identify why the manuscript isn’t keeping my attention. Maybe it’s just plain boring or the writing isn’t good enough. Maybe it starts out strong but then falls apart. Maybe the characters aren’t well-developed. Or the dialogue isn’t working. Or it didn’t feel original. Or any number of other problems. But for me, the yes or no starts in my gut. It’s not scientific, but it’s what I’ve got.
I’m sure you’ve had the same thing happen in areas of your life or work in which you have to rely on your instincts.
Sometimes, I must say no to a novel.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/VBoa34qcW4w