Your Manuscript Isn’t Ready
This is probably the number one issue I see. Ninety-nine percent of these manuscripts are rejected. They’re often riddled with grammatical errors, plot holes, continuity issues, and character development issues. Some of these are evident in the submission, which is summarily rejected. Others don’t show these issues until somewhere between chapters two and six, although occasionally you might not see it fall apart until half-way through. Why am I so specific in saying between chapters two and six? Because the majority of fulls I rejected for simply falling apart usually did so around those chapters, depending on the length of the book and the chapters. Like other editors and agents that have commented on this issue, I believe there’s a very simple explanation. I think it comes from workshopping the query, synopsis, and first few chapters until they shine, and then the author submitting the manuscript without applying what they learned to the rest of the novel. This was always a disappointment.
However, I will admit this. I had one manuscript that had a lot of issues. In spite of the issues, the story itself was wonderful and compelling, and I wanted it. I put that manuscript through three R&Rs before contracting it, and of course we still had edits after that. (And before anyone asks—NO, it was not Carol’s. *grin*) Would I do that again? Maybe, maybe not, but I can tell you it would have to be an amazing story in spite of the flaws. Not just good or even great, but amazing. I can also tell you this situation was the exception to the rule. It’s very rare for an editor to do something like this because detailed R&Rs like the ones I sent out for that manuscript take a lot of time.
So my advice in this area is to make sure you revise your manuscript. Send it out to betas, and if you workshop the first chapter or the first few chapters, make sure you apply what you’ve learned—or revisions you’ve made—to the rest of the manuscript. There’s nothing stranger than reading a manuscript and learning that when Carla was a child, her mother died. Then, Carla goes home somewhere around chapter five or six and sits down to a family dinner…complete with Mom. And no, it wasn’t Mom’s spirit or a step-mother or anything like that. Mom wasn’t dead in the original draft. She died because of workshopping suggestions for some reason or another, and the family dinner scene wasn’t revised to reflect this. Make sure your manuscript doesn’t fall apart because you revised the first few chapters and neglected the rest of it.