What’s in the Sub Pile: December 2016

Once again I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some trends and patterns that I’m currently seeing in the submission pile. Of course I won’t discussion any submission in specific detail, but I hope that examining the trends in the submissions I see will be useful to writers.

(Note that I read submissions for a YA imprint of all genres and adult romance imprints–both category and single-title–so those are the only types of manuscripts I see unless someone seriously disregards the sub guidelines,  in which case I don’t read their submission anyway. So those are the categories/genres I’ll be discussing.)

Here’s what I’m currently seeing in the sub pile:

  1. YA mysteries and thrillers

I’ve had several YA mysteries/thrillers lately, which is great. There definitely seems to be a lot of interest in these right now. But I’m noticing a lot of thrillers that focus on the hook at the expense of the execution. I’ll read an intriguing query letter that promises secrets and intrigue, or a premise with a big hook. But then the actual pages will be lacking in other elements—characterization, pacing, structure, etc. This issue certainly isn’t unique to thrillers, of course, but it applies to quite a few that I’ve read recently. Regardless of what genre you’re writing, remember that it’s not enough to have a good hook; every element of the book must be well crafted.

  1. Generic titles

This might just be coincidence, but I noticed that quite a few submissions I’ve read in the past few months have fairly generic titles—so much so that I have difficulty distinguishing them. This isn’t a huge issue, since titles can always be changed later; it wouldn’t necessarily prevent an editor from acquiring your manuscript. But if the agents/editors you’re submitting to get your title mixed up with someone else’s, or can’t remember it even after reading a significant portion of the manuscript? That’s not ideal.

Of course, it can be difficult to know whether or not your title is generic, but here are some general steps you can take when thinking about titles. First, Google it. Search for the phrase and see what kinds of results you get. Try a similar search on Goodreads and Amazon to see if there are any other books out there with the same or similar titles. Again, it’s not necessarily bad if there’s another book out there with the same title as yours, but if you’re getting dozens of similar results, you may want to rethink it. Second, make sure that the words/phrases in your title help to identify your book in some way. The best titles are those that clue the reader in to the genre subject matter right away.

For more advice on titles, see this post.

  1. Similar action beats in romance

Okay, this one doesn’t qualify as a trend so much as a craft pet peeve of mine, but I’m going to talk about it anyway. There are a lot of really similar and/or repetitive action beats that apply specifically to romance (or any book with a significant romantic subplot/scene). I see a lot of protagonists/love interests biting their lips to express nervousness or confusion or indecision. I also see  a lot of beats involving breathing—inhaling, exhaling, holding a breath, releasing a breath, forgetting or remembering to breathe, etc. Similarly, there’s a lot of heart pounding/fluttering/racing going on. Another common culprit: long staring/gazing. Making eye contact and holding it, gazing into one another’s eyes, and so on.

It isn’t wrong to use one of these every now and then, but try to vary the actions that you use. Think about the character’s entire body instead of just their face/head, and focus on sensations other than breathing or heartbeats. Does your character have any unique mannerisms? What are they doing with their body language? How might they be interacting with the environment around them while they speak? Focusing on the entire body will help alleviate some of these repetitive beats.

Have any general questions about the submissions process or sub pile trends? Let me know in the comments!

Interested in professional editorial services for your manuscript? Check out my Services page for more information about what I offer.

Related Links:

What’s in the Sub Pile: August 2016

5 Things to Know Before Getting an Agent

5 Signs Your Manuscript Isn’t Ready

What to Avoid in Your Synopsis


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