This list is a compilation of a Twitter thread by editor Melissa Ann Singer of Tor/Forge Books. Hope you find them helpful in your writing journey!
mss. = manuscripts
MC = main character
1. Struggles with exposition.
Poor exposition is one of the most common problems I see in manuscripts. Usually the problem is too much, which impacts the pace of the book and can get in the way of the reader making a connection to the characters. Sometimes it’s too little so the “world” of the book feels thin and unreal, even in mss. set in the here and now (or the here and then).
2. Main character seems to over-react to personal interactions & events that seem pretty mild to me as a reader. Suspect this is more of a matter of mismatch between reader and manuscript? But didn’t find MC’s state of mind convincing, so passed.
3. Combination of slow pace and story not beginning in the right place. Not beginning in the right place can often be fixed, but slow pace can be harder to deal with.
4. Too talky. It can be hard to strike the right balance between dialogue and narrative. I often send notes to authors saying, “Can this convo be turned into 2 sentences of narrative?”
Character A told character B about thing C especially when recapping in dialogue what reader has already witnessed in previous scenes.
5. Completely predictable plot. I always worry about these rejections; is it because I’ve read so many books than I can predict the plot? Isn’t the book living up to the common tropes of its genre? Which can be fun/fine, but if I know the plot, I have to adore the characters or setting or writing or something. If I don’t, I have to pass.
6. Did not like or sympathize with a single character. I don’t have to like anyone/everyone, but I have to care about someone.
7. Unconvincing world building. Related to the exposition problem. World must convince, must feel logical/acceptable to reader. If a simple description of a town leaves me with a ton of questions, there’s a world building issue.
8. Effort to differentiate between MCs by showing their pasts messed up the pacing & delayed start of current events.
9. Part of an ongoing series; didn’t work as an entry point. While we will sometimes take on series that have been published elsewhere, it’s not easy to do that. First book should be able to be read/understood/enjoyed by someone who hasn’t seen the previous book(s).
10. Slow start. I don’t demand *Action*Right*Out*Of*The*Gate, but I do want the story to begin to become apparent w/in 1st chapter or 2.
11. Setting & time period I’ve seen often; book didn’t show me anything new/different enough.
12. Interesting setting and culture; alas, story was thin and cliche.
13. Huge cast! Could identify MCs but couldn’t determine relative importance of others. That’s important to me because I want to know that I need to remember characters A, B, and C out of the ~20 named in 1st few chapters. More accurately, I want to know what I can mostly forget/not pay a lot of attention to.