Writers On Writing / Avoiding the rejection pile with Linda Funnell

We had a chat to publisher and editor Linda Funnell about avoiding the rejection pile ahead of her course starting on Tuesday 5 March at Writing NSW, From First Draft to Polished Manuscript.

What are some of the most common errors that doom a manuscript to the rejection pile?

Whatever the genre, early drafts can have really obvious problems: a plot that doesn’t make sense or is difficult to follow, underdeveloped characters, confusing (or no) motivation for the action, writing that is unclear and/or relies on clichés, big infodumps of backstory that hold everything up.

You’ve said that writers often err by sending their manuscript to a publisher or agent before it’s ready. How does one know one’s work is ready to release?

This can be really tough. 


Think about what you wanted to achieve when you set out to write this book. Has the book changed from what you thought it would be? If it has, is this change reflected throughout the manuscript or have you got a manuscript that’s half one thing and half another?


Are there things that niggle at you? Parts you think you could handle better?


If you were to give your manuscript to a stranger, would you feel compelled to explain to them that ‘it really gets going after chapter four’, or ‘you’ll have to ignore the typos’ or some other caveat? If you do, you’ve still got work to do. Your manuscript has to be able to stand on its own two feet, without qualifications. 

Revising and re-writing one’s own work can be difficult. Do you have any advice for writers trying to get in the right mindset?

You really need to try to read your work as though you’ve never seen it before. If you can put your first draft away for a couple of months—or more—you’ll be surprised what you’ll see when you come back to it. And there are tricks you can use to help make the manuscript look unfamiliar to you—print it out in a different font; on different coloured paper; or even get a text-to-voice program to read it to you.

Linda Funnell is a publisher and editor with over 30 years of experience in the publishing industry, and has taught courses in publishing, editing and writing for UTS, the ASA and Writing NSW. She has been a publisher with HarperCollins and Random House, and a Managing Editor at Pan Macmillan.

From First Draft to Polished Manuscript with Linda Funnell will take place at Writing NSW over six Tuesday evenings on 5, 12, 19, 26 March; 2, 9 April, 6:30-9:30pm. Book your spot here >

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