Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript That Sells
Writer's Digest Books
Reviewed by Beth Morrow
Copyright 2006 - All
Whether literally or figuratively,
we've all heard the advice to not judge a book by its cover. As a book
lover who'll read anything once, however, I rarely give a second thought
to book covers--but not book titles. Freelancing for a variety of
publications has taught me the value of the perfect title. Readers are
won and lost on the merits of the accuracy and appeal of those first
few, crucial words--and since I'm a reader at heart, I'm as guilty as
anyone when it comes to passing by a book because the title isn't
interesting, compelling or applicable to me.
Such was the case with Alice Orr's No More
Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript That Sells. I remembered
perusing it at the bookstore when it first came out in 2004, but at the time
chose to pass for a number of reasons--namely that I wasn't at the point of my
career where I needed to worry about rejections (I needed to finish the
manuscript) and frankly, I couldn't take one more book of "50" or "10" or "100"
secrets or ways to do anything related to writing.
But as I discovered two weeks ago at a seminar
featuring Alice Orr, judging a book by its title--at least in this case--was a
mistake on my part.
In No More Rejections, Orr distills her
decades of experience as an author, editor and agent to writers on topics
ranging from brainstorming to writing to editing, to getting an agent and
selling to the real secrets that take place behind the scenes in the
publishing world. In a no-nonsense, practical and useful tone, she guides
writers through the spectrum of what it takes to get from the dream of being a
writer to the reality of being published.
The 50 secrets are broken into ten passages
(aka chapters) with each passage focusing on one area writers need to consider
when crafting their manuscript. Passage topics include brainstorming, main
characters, secondary characters, beginnings, plotting, middles, writing style,
endings and what comes next--synopsis, editing, promotion, professionalism.
Each succinctly presented secret--five per
passage--is accompanied by details and/or definitions, suggestions on how to
succeed with the secret or avoid having it sabotage your efforts and occasional
real-life examples from Orr's career to illustrate the point.
While the secrets are interesting in
themselves, the real value of the book lies in the two culminating activities at
the end of each chapter. The first, Crossroads, gives direct questions
and situations for the writer to ponder regarding their manuscript and how well
it incorporates the elements discussed in the chapter. For example, in the
passage on scene structure, one of the Crossroads questions is "What stands in
the way of your main character's goal in this scene and creates conflict as the
character resists this opposition?"
The second set of activities in each chapter,
entitled Are You There Yet, is a hands-on activity for taking the
passage's lessons and incorporating them into your writing life. No exercise in
this book is busy work--each activity is thoughtfully created and serves a
valuable purpose either in creating a stronger manuscript or helping the writer
become a published author.
The only drawback in the book in my opinion
was that throughout the passages were scattered examples of manuscripts Orr has
received over the years meant to illustrate what not to do in writing, whether
in regard to character, plot, setting, etc. These clips were rarely helpful in a
direct way as there was no depth to the passages that connected them
meaningfully to what I've learned as a writer. I learn from bad writing by
reading bad writing, not by reading someone's isolated comments. If the bad
writing had been presented in context, these snippets might be more useful.
Still, the book's merits lie in the activities
in each chapter and overlooking the "floating" examples was easy--the value of
the activities far surpasses any minor detractors in the text. If you're
interested in strengthening your manuscript--at whatever stage your writing
career is in at the moment--be sure to pick up Alice Orr's
No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing A Manuscript That
Beth Morrow is an author and freelance writer with almost as
many rejections as acceptances. She can be reached via email at