An author we have published in the past pitched us another book. We like this author and his book we published only needed some light rework and a heavy line edit, but the story was well done. So we were excited about it after reading his thoughtful and clear pitch and asked to see the manuscript.
However, after careful review, we found the book was not yet ready and sent him a letter, regretfully declining to publish “Title Redacted“. But we felt he needed to understand the why of it, instead of believing we didn’t want to be bothered.
It takes a lot of time to think through a well-done rejection. We do not make any money from this work, but we did believe it did provide a learning curve for writers. We hope you can enjoy it.
Look, books are like babies. All “mothers” think their child is beautiful. A friend of our founder [Angela] told the story of when he went to look at the baby in the hospital and when he saw how ugly the boy was, he was so upset because he didn’t know how to tell his wife. With heavy heart and a heavier tread, he walked into her hospital room only to have her greet him with, “Oh, Jay. Have you seen our beautiful son? He looks just like you!”
With that in mind, we set about replying to our author. Here it is:
Stories like this, set in that time period, have been written a lot. The Biblical adage is true that there is “nothing new under the sun”, so it’s not like we should expect this story never to have been told before.
But having been told so many times, any following versions of it must engage the reader on a different level or in a different way — even if that means the writer steps out of his usual storytelling method/style.
Think about the movie “Stand By Me” about four young boys adventures. The boy did not tell the story. The man the boy became told it with voiceovers and thus we get the nuances children will not know about.
Your teenage POV is not the best for this story. Such subject matter requires more honesty than a typical coming-of-age tale. This, we feel, is what is necessary for “Title Redacted“.
But that entails a lot of work that only the author can really do. Maybe consider these methods to evaluate your manuscript:
- More foreshadowing
- Told ONLY from omniscient narrator’s POV (very handy because then the truth about all characters can be told because the narrator knows all about everyone and doesn’t have to explain how he knows)
- Told from a long time in the future with the main character looking back with an honesty he can now afford because brother, mother, father, and other important characters are dead. Also, coming from a future-to-past POV allows for some hope to be added to the story because the MC can compare time periods and make more points the reader may appreciate.
- Add short flashbacks that quickly summarize a situation and lead into them from the expanse of time.
- Delve more deeply into the quagmires of personality/motives.
- Have less scene setting; that can bog down a heavy tale such as this.