re: Time to Trash My Manuscript?

in Narrative Voice/Teen/Middle Grade Fiction by

Dear Editor…

I have been sending out my middle grade fantasy. I was writing to my 8 year old but the 2 rejections I received speak about voice. I myself am moved by the voice in children’s books and can certainly attain A GOOD voice in a new book, but should I throw this one away? Believe the two rejections?

Sincerely,

Gemini

Dear Gemini…

Two thumbs down don’t warrant the round file. But since those thumbs take issue with the same thing—voice—let’s take that up. One way to make a “good” narrative voice “great” is to spiffy up your word and phrase choices. Don’t use bland go-to words. Characters don’t sit, they kick back or slump. They don’t get mad, they freak out or huff about. They’re not small, they’re scrawny. But even more than replacing bland verbs with active ones, or innocuous adjectives with spunky ones, look for phrases that force you to re-examine and recast the entire sentence, then the paragraph, then the scene, etc. For example, changing “He was so dumb” to “He was a congenital idiot” opens up a whole new personality for the narrative voice. Look to the last entries in your bound thesaurus (not those free on-line jobbies that are so heinously sparse), at the nonformal usage (“nf”) listings and let them inspire you. Start with a single scene, experimenting with phrases you wouldn’t have considered in the past. A new voice should emerge and take over the scene, and then the next scene, and then the next…. Give that a try and see how it flies.

Happy writing!

The Editor

10 Comments

  1. Good comments, but if this was written for an 8 year old, which is what I got from the original question, is “congenital idiot” not out of vocabulary range for that age? If the ‘rejectors’ are basing their action on this, maybe they were not the right ones to submit to?

    • Good point, Allen. I aimed my example at craft itself, trying to illustrate two very contrasting phrases/voices. I should’ve accounted for age, too. Thanks for reminding everyone to keep the word choice age-appropriate.

      –The Editor

  2. Gemini–It sounds like you are passionate about writing for children and that is so important! Two rejection letters is NOTHING…Don’t let them make you waiver in your quest. If you think they have any valid points (even secretly when no one is looking) then ask your critique partners. If your critique partners only tell you your work is great, you need to get new cp’s…Go to conferences, get critiques, find beta readers…get more input. But if you are really drawn to this age group, DON’T GIVE UP!

    Best wishes!

  3. If you are getting personal rejections, that’s very different than a standard printed form. I agree with Sharon. Go to some conferences or workshops and get some professional opinions. Get help from a good critiquer or three.

  4. Two rejections are nothing. Revise, revise, revise, write some more, submit even more, write some more, revise some more. Eat some chocolate when you get rejections. And don’t forget good critique partners. Ahhh, the writer’s life.

  5. As they say in Galaxy Quest – Never give up. Never surrender! Your m/s is your work. Yes, revise but never scrap it! Only 2 rejections? When it gets to 20, maybe you should consider a rewrite. My two successful novels started off with too much flashback. I upgraded the action and now they are best sellers…never surrender!

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