6 Things That Are Wrong With Your Manuscript

notepageI love talking about the great things writers do and how they surprise me all the time with their wonderful prose, but from time to time I need to stress the things that go wrong with manuscript submissions!

Here are my top 6 things that are wrong with submissions to agents:

  1. Your story starts in the wrong place.
  2. All dialogue is one generic voice, when I should hear each character speaking to me in a unique way.
  3. Introducing characters’ appearance and personality with an ‘info dump’, and not weaving into the story itself.
  4. Treating your novel like your main character’s journal. We don’t need to know when they get up in the morning, what they eat for breakfast, and how their day progresses. Focus on moving the plot through important actions, not narrating their day.
  5. For Children’s Fiction: Make sure your target age group, your voice and style match what you’ve written.
  6. Telling instead of showing. (I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s still apparent in many submissions.)

Use this as a checklist before submitting your manuscript. We’re looking for great projects from great writers with great voices–don’t sell yourself short with an unedited manuscript.

Q: What else is on your editing checklist?

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

4 thoughts on “6 Things That Are Wrong With Your Manuscript

  1. Good advice. My most recent manuscript did not find the correct place to begin until the most recent draft. The original versions were useful for background information, things I needed to know but the reader probably wouldn’t care about until later.


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