Why do some stories fail while others seem to do well? What sets them apart, what makes them so special? Why do agents and publishers not choose your story?
Stories fail for numerous reasons, and they are usually the result of collective causes rather than just one specific reason, so here’s a list of 10 of the most common reasons why stories fail or are rejected by agents, editors and publishers:
The Story is Rubbish
Patently, the number one reason a story fails with readers, or it is rejected by agents or publishers, is because the story is just rubbish. No writer likes to hear that, but the truth is that some stories are just dire, even if the writers don’t realise it. Some writers can write, some writers can’t. And if you can’t, then the result will be awful, the story will be rubbish.
To remedy this, the writer has to learn to write to a standard that is acceptable and publishable. And if self-publishing, where there are no quality controls, the need for quality writing is even more important.
Learn to recognise bad writing and improve upon it.
The Author is Terrible at Writing
Every writer assumes they are good at writing, but the reality is that not everyone is actually good at writing. Everyone can write, but it takes much more to be a writer, therefore, the quality of writing required for a successful story doesn’t happen overnight, and isn’t something a writer can pick up after a week of writing.
Quality writing takes years.
Haven’t got the time to learn to write well? Then you’re not a writer.
The Story is Telling, Not Showing
This is very common with any story, and in particular it’s common with new writers who have not understood the concept of showing rather than telling. So instead of taking the time to describe to the reader and draw them in by getting them to use their imaginations, it means they have left out that descriptive element and they end up telling the story like it’s a grocery list.
Show those important scenes. Show the agents, publishers and editors you can write.
The Story is Full of Grammatical Errors
Surprisingly, plenty of writers assume they are brilliant at writing and insist they don’t make any mistakes, and if they do, then stick their heads in the sand and ignore them, but the truth is that all writers make mistakes. No one is immune. The difference here is that most writers – experienced ones – will edit their work thoroughly, correct the errors and polish their prose to almost perfection before sending it to a publishing house or agent, or before self-publishing.
Grammatical mistakes come in all manner of ways – not just the obvious spelling and punctuation mistakes. They also cover use of adverbs, adjectives, sentences structures and layout, terrible dialogue, continuity errors and so on.
Every story you write should be as error free and as perfect as you can make it. Your first draft is never the finished product. Edit, edit and edit again.
The story has no structure
A story without structure isn’t really a story. It’s a conglomeration of random, unrelated things happening to some characters and none of it makes much sense.
Plenty of would be authors fail to structure the story properly, forgetting that the beginning should jump straight into the action and introduce the characters, the middle should relay the story, conflict, themes and subplots, while the ending should be exciting and satisfying.
The Author Hasn’t Learned the Craft
If the writer hasn’t learned the craft, it shows in their writing, because the result is just so awful. Self-publishing is packed with authors who haven’t made the effort to learn this craft.
Writing is an art form, it takes a few years to become proficient, and it takes longer to become brilliant at it. The advice here is simple: take the time to learn how to write. Just because you want to write a novel doesn’t necessarily mean you’re any good at it.
Authors Won't Follow Instructions/Advice
What would this have to do with a story failing?
It’s vital that any writer learns how to follow instructions from others, whether it’s information or advice from literary agents, publishers, editors or beta readers. The ability to do so shows a willingness to learn and expand your skill. But if you can’t or won’t follow advice or guidelines given by professionals, it means you’ll face many rejections. Your endeavours will be failures and you will never learn.
Authors Won't Learn From Their Mistakes
This is on the same par as the above reason of not following advice, because writers who don't or won't learn from their mistakes, or accept constructive feedback in order to improve their skills, will ultimately fail.
Why? Because if you don’t learn from that mistake, you will repeat the same mistakes over and over.
No one is perfect – we all make mistakes. When we do, we learn not to do them again and that means we improve. So recognise your errors, or if they are pointed out by editors or agents, then strive to correct them.
This is the worst kind of writer.
These writers assume their work is brilliant and they are the best writer around, they are overconfident about their work; they know everything there is to know about writing, except to know that this equates to an instant fail.
If you are seeking the traditional route to being published, it’s wise to know that agents and publishers detest arrogance as much as ignorance and they may reject you if they feel they cannot work with someone who already knows it all and can’t follow their advice.
Writer’s should never be obstinate or have the ‘I can write how I like’ attitude. By all means write how you like, but make sure you write something that is worth reading, is well-written, enjoyable and satisfying for the reader, and more importantly, it makes them want to read more of your stories.
Absence of Creativity or Imagination
There are plenty of stories that lack creativity or imagination. Often writers plunder other stories for their ideas, instead of coming up with their own ideas. Many stories often lack the creative essence that make them so entertaining or gripping to read. That’s because some authors can’t be bothered with the creative process. They just write what they think is good and then self-publish it in the belief they have created a best seller.
Creativity is the life force of any art form. It’s what makes writers write. Imagination is the fuel that drives that creativity. Together they help writers create the fantastical, the incredible, the brilliant stories we love to read.
Without it, there’s nothing.
Those are some of the most common reasons why stories might fail with readers, agents, editors and publishers. So to succeed, pay attention to advice, learn from your mistakes; don’t be ignorant of your weaknesses as a writer, or arrogant enough to think you’re the best novelist around. Take the time to learn all you can about the craft, that way you’ll failure becomes success.
Next week: Where exactly to begin your story?