5 Deadly Mistakes That Get Your Story Rejected

We get many submissions each month. And we read each of them, even if we know they will not make publication. As time has passed we know that there are at least FIVE deadly mistakes that new writers make, disqualifying them from serious consideration by most reputable publishing houses.

Why do we read them? Because we deal with a lot of new writers, where suggestions can be offered, where encouragement can be given, we like to do so. Often a story comes through that has the potential to be publishable. Perhaps it lacks in just a few areas. We like to offer the writer a chance to resubmit (often more than once), until we reach a point that we can accept it. Sometimes, we still cannot accept it after revisions. Many writers do not like the idea of rewrites and often fail to resubmit. 

New writers are enamored with their work. An amazing number of first drafts are submitted riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, poor sentence structure, contradictory tenses.

Below are the five deadly mistakes we see the most.



Stories that begin at the beginning of a story arc, slowly and without a sense of urgency, often fail to make a reader continue.

Your story MUST grab from the first page, the first paragraph, and, if possible, the first line. Why would a reader waste time having to decipher your story?



Many submissions come in as stories told, as though a narrator was reading. These stories have no dialog, no character descriptions, and with no dialog fail to show character traits through the dialog.

These stories are the most boring. As a reader I want to be able to “see” the story in my mind’s eye. Void of anything substantial from characterization and dialog, it is just like listening to someone talk endlessly.



Like the last complain, a story without conflict is just not a story. Conflict is a difficult concept for new writers. They create their world, fall in love with their creation and hate to destroy it or change it in any way. As a result, with no conflict, nothing happens. Again the reader yawns. Yes, you may have created a lovely world, but it is also a boring world. 

All stories need conflict, must be driven by conflict and should start with the conflict right there. Grab your readers and hold them. Add more layers of conflict so that the plot thickens and the reader is compelled to finish. Do not be afraid to break your world, hurt your characters. Through the story they will rise to the challenge or perish. Either way the reader will feel satisfied.



Unbelievably, many stories are submitted to us with character names that are ridiculous. Intended to be funny, light-hearted, or amusing, treating your characters like this destroys any interest the reader has to invest their time. Pola Rosensplatt, for example, or Harold Puffswiggins. 

The power of your character lies in their backstory, their ordinary name that becomes extraordinary when they rise to the conflicts, and in their transitional story arc. 



Inasmuch as a character must have a conflict, a story must have a decent ending. This does not mean your story must resolve, but the character must reach a point where the story can be stopped, told, handled, and with that part resolved. 

Look at movies with sequels. Where did each end? Was it sequential or did it treat each film as a standalone? Your characters do not have to live happily ever after; but they must do something that indicates the story arc has been completed and this part closed. There is nothing worse than a weak, or absent ending to your story. It leaves the reader feeling cheated after all the investment of their time. 

These are just five of many problems that can result in your story being rejected. Have you noticed any of these in your stories? 

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AltPublish also holds Online classes to help writers (and students) refine their work, obtain feedback, learn marketing techniques (not Facebook or Twitter), and more. If you are interested in more information please email us at info@altpublish.com