Friday, June 22, 2012

Please welcome our guest Nikki Arana

Why Do First Manuscripts So Often Get Rejected?

Nikki Arana
The biggest reason that new writers receive rejections is because they send out their ms (manuscript) before it is ready. Quite often emerging writers think when they finish their first ms, they have a book that is ready for the marketplace. In almost all cases, that isn’t true. If it has been written with the guidance of a critique group of other unpublished authors, it's probably a good first draft. If it was written without any mentoring, it's probably a detailed outline. That's what the first draft of my first book was . . . the agent I sent it to is the one who tipped me off! (grimaces)

After you’ve learned all you can about writing fiction through the resources available to you, the next step toward publication is to become familiar with the elements of commercial fiction and be sure that your novel has them. If it doesn’t, the chance of agents and publishers rejecting your submission are very high. Do you have an internal and external story for the protagonists? Does your novel open with the inciting incident?  (That is the moment/incident that sets your hero/heroine on their journey.) Is your novel cohesive? Meaning does EVERYHING relate in some way to the plot. Even the sub-plots need to tie-in in some way to the storyline. Are scenes followed by sequels that move the plot forward? All of these are the solid building blocks of commercial novels that will garner sales advances that will allow you to make a living from your writing. 

Really study the elements I’ve listed above. If some of the terms are unfamiliar to you, try looking online for further explanation. The most difficult one to fully understand is the internal and external story. When I teach story structure I explain it this way: It is like the book of Hosea in the Bible. Hosea is the story of a man who married a prostitute. That is the external story. But it is really about God’s love for Israel. That is the internal story. 

You may want to hire a professional editor to help you reach the next level in your writing. I'm writing my sixth book and still use a professional editor to guide me. I consider the money I spend on editing as my college tuition. Yes, there are always those stories of a newbie sending out an ms and selling it. But out of the hundreds, even thousands of writers who submit mss every month, that happens very rarely. It is getting harder and harder to break into print with a royalty paying publisher. If difficult finances prevent you from using an editor, then try and find a pubbed author to guide you. They can be just as valuable, but often can't give the time needed. There are also conferences, workshops, and classes. It will just take a little longer going that route. Which of the commercial elements do you need to study? Where do you think you can find resources to help you?
Click to Buy on Amazon

In the Wizard of Oz the external story is about a girl who is caught up in a tornado and goes to a mythical land called Oz. But it is really about Dorothy’s self-discovery that there is no place like home. Perfecting the technique of writing a universal truth through an external story is well worth the work it takes to learn how to do it. It will set your book apart from the many others that agents and editors have to choose from.

Pray with all your heart and work with all your might. Give your God-given call and God-given talent every opportunity to prosper.

Today I'm giving away a copy of The Next Target. An e-book or hard copy here in US, e-book only out of the country. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing.
The Next Target--When extremists murder Austia Donatelli’s student and then set their sights on her, she must untangle a web of deception to save herself, her underground ministry to Muslims in L.A., and the women she serves.
Author and speaker Nikki Arana has received numerous awards for her writing, including the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year award and Top 20 Novel of the Year for The Winds of Sonoma. Through her ministry, A Voice for the Persecuted, she inspires hearts toward evangelizing the Muslim community.


  1. Yay! I'm here early! I was sooooo late yesterday it was like an hour ago before I posted :D. And yesterday looked like fun too!

    Great tips, Nikki! Thanks so much for sharing :). I'm working on mss 7-9 I think [all in various stages... whichever gets done first is #7 though I suppose... rough draft goal end of this month] and while I think my first mss is pretty good and I adore the story, but I can definitely see how far I've come since then.

    And now back to moving furniture away from the walls so the U-verse guy can get to the cable outlets tomorrow. Here's praying I'm not internet-less too long!

  2. Just discovered your blog yesterday, Nikki and now, here you are on Seekerville! Loved the blog and your post on Encouragement for Writers really blessed me.

    Thanks for the tips on sharpening your ms before submission.

    Downloaded The Next Target yesterday, so don't put my name in the drawing. Can't wait to read it.

  3. Mama! You and me tonight my friend!

    I also downloaded TNT so don't include me either :).

  4. Nikki, thanks so much for being here today.

    I think a lot of what you're saying goes straight back to the Moral Premise of the story/plot. We've had Stan Williams over here and he's amazing.

    Weaving these ideas throughout a story helps to make the story organic to the plot. As if it all grew up, out of the ground, together, one entity with separate parts.

    Hey, I do believe Missy has FINISHED HER BOOK and she's making tuna in the cafe, but it's too early for tuna here so how's 'bout I rustle us up a breakfast pizza?

    Toppings are scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, peppers and onions, sharp shredded cheese and mushrooms on one of the pizzas.

    If you have a special order, sing out! We're here to please! I brought the Keurig and I've re-stocked on coffee... and yes, that beat up my slush fund, but a summer without my little countertop cafe???? Oy.

    I do not even care to imagine that, LOL!



  5. Enjoyed the post Nikki! Your book sounds great.

  6. Hi Nikki,

    Who wouldn't want to read a book with an "underground ministry to Muslims in LA"? Sounds intriguing and then she's running for her life. Please enter me. Thanks.

    You've given me a lot to think about inner and outer story.

    I'll be referring back to you notes often.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today.

    Jackie L.

  7. Welcome to Seekerville, Nikki. Loads of wisdom in your post!!

    I had to smile at the newby tendency to send the book too soon. That was me. I now understand that typing The End is only the beginning. :-)

    With six books on the shelves, I'm still learning aspects of story structure and premise. When I reading craft books they makes perfect sense, but to use that knowledge in a novel isn't easy.


  8. Ruthy, thanks for coffee and breakfast pizza!! I like taco pizza but maybe not in the morning. :-)


  9. hmmm.... my external story is about a man selling books to libraries; my internal story is about a man always trying to win new books from Seekerville:) Mr. Book Look (oops, I mean Anonymous)

  10. NIKKI!!! Soooo good to have you here, my friend, and WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!!

    You and I have never met in person, but our mutual agent and dear friend Natasha has SO sung your praises, that I feel as if we have.

    I had to laugh at Ruthy's comment about your blog today tying into The Moral Premise -- Natasha's Bible -- AND with good reason!! Everything you've outlined in this excellent post helps to reinforce the premise of Stan's book as well.

    I LOVE the line, "Pray with all your heart and work with all your might" because "prayer" is not just a wheel on this bus, but the entire steering mechanism!!

    Thank you again, Nikki, for the Kindle Fire I won in your contest -- I am still pinching myself over that one AND the copy of The Next Target that comes with it -- WHOO-HOO!!!


  11. Nikki, thanks for joining us in Seekerville today.

    Great topic. There are so many areas to polish within your ms. before it's ready to submit.

    And it's so easy to overlook some of the most important pieces that hold the entire ms together. For me, keeping that whole internal/external thing separate becomes a tricky dance.

    Polish. Polish. Polish.

    Great advice.

  12. Thanks for re-stocking the Keurig, Ruthy. Have any Southern Pecan? I love that stuff.

    Oooo, and breakfast pizza. Sounds great, but do you have anything low carb??????


    Tuna sounds good even this early in the morning.

  13. Nikki, thank you for sharing sprcific thingsto look for in a manuscript before sending it out. So helpful! Next to determine how to deepen my internal and external stories. I think I may need to check out your website too. :)

    I'd love to be in the drawing for your book. Thanks!!

  14. Nikki, this is one of those posts ... the kind I know I will re-read many times in the future. I've noticed (as I've edited each ms) how I think everything relates to the plot but then realize that some of it is backstory. It does relate, definitely, but in the past. So much to learn and such an interesting journey learning it :-)

    Nancy C

  15. Hello Nikki, as a reader I had no idea so much went into a book being written, authors are tremendous people. I have more respect after reading the post here at seekerville.
    thanks Authors for your dedication to your work.
    Paula O(

  16. Good morning Seekerville peeps! :)
    This post got me really reflecting so thank you Nikki!


  17. Thanks for the post, Nikki!

    Balancing the internal and external stories is something I'm working on right now, so this is very helpful :)

    And I agree with Janet: typing The End is only the beginning! I can't believe how much my book has changed since I first typed those words...

  18. I wish I had known about this blog when I started writing.


    I don't think they had internet, not to mention, blogs back then.

    I didn't try sending out my ms when I completed my first book. I joined a chapter of RWA and started entering contests. I realized real quick I knew nothing about writing, but I think the judges knew that and were sensitive.

    Your book sounds action-packed. Put me in for the drawing please.


  19. Great post and information Nikki. Definitely some points to ponder.

    Jodie Wolfe

  20. Nikki! Welcome to Seekerville.
    Great points.

    Now, I'd like to hear your first sale story!!

  21. Testing. Testing. Is this microphone on?

    So just how many Seekers are repped by the famous Natasha Kern anyhow?

  22. Welcome Nikki! Thanks for sharing with us today--lots of good advice here. ~One of your statements struck me and I wrote it down to keep by my computer: Pray with all your heart and work with all your might. ~ To me, that sums up exactly what I need to be doing right now! (yes, I like things "simple and in a nutshell"LOL). Thanks again, and blessings as you write for Him. ~ Patti Jo

  23. Welcome to Seekerville, Nikki.
    I still love the first book I ever wrote.
    I reread it recently and it's hilariously badly written but the STORY I told---sniffle---I love it still.
    I'll like to take another shot at telling it well.

  24. This post reminds me of that first novel I wrote.

    There were so many issues (104 as opposed to the 54 I have today)...that to this day I have strong urges to find those poor judges and beg forgiveness.

    When you are faced with a newbie author it's best to just pick one or two problems and address those and leave the rest so they don't just throw in the towel and quit.

    Why? Because really, except for Mary, we've all been there.

  25. The biggest problem we have as new writers is the adoris manucriptus syndrome.

    Where you hate, to the point of tears, to touch a single word of your masterpiece.

    Once I realized I could cut the little darlings and save those wonderful words in a file I was able to go ahead and make changes.

  26. Tina, sometimes I think my "cut and save" file is bigger than all of my manuscripts combined :-)

    Nancy C

  27. Nikki (and any of you other writers out there who may have a thought/opinion/observation to share)I have a question, please.

    I have heard and read that you should establish the hero/heroine's regular world first. How do you do that and start at the moment/incident that sets your hero/heroine on their journey (the moment that actually changes the regular world)?

    Nancy C


    It doesn't matter though, because I am COMPLETELY OVER IT!!!

  29. Yes, the adoris manucriptus syndrome, unlike now when I know what I'm writing is dreadful and will need major surgery to save the patient
    I believe that's called Novellictus Suckalotus

  30. You know, this reminds me, someone, recently wrote to me and said they'd cut a huge amount of their backstory and had, thusly, RUINED THEIR BOOK.

    I'd like to formally apologize to anyone who ever takes my advice and officially warn you that people usually get stupider when I teach them stuff.

    There is actual paperwork on file with the State of Nebraska attesting to that.

  31. Nancy C, that's pretty much how The Hero's Journey works. It starts with the ordinary world. With novels you have very little opportunity to present that before the inciting incident so you have to weave it in through dialogue, and internals. Which is the same as weaving in backstory.

  32. I'm not sure I agree with the 'establish the normal world first' unless you do that in the midst of crisis. Something needs to be happening at the beginning to draw the reader in.
    So, in Over the Edge, coming in August, hmmm....normal world.

    It starts with a stage coach robbery. But then that's the normal world right? Stage coaches get robbed. The heroine saves herself then the hero comes riding to the rescue and helps save the heroine after she's done all the hard work.

    But then a few ... let's say ... the other shoe drops and yes, I suppose we go into the story world in a way.

    Sort of.

    Nancy, you're not paying any attention to me, right? Best not to.

  33. Connie Queen your experience is so NORMAL. But you know what? You started that book and finished it. There are so many who never do finish. You shoved your way to the head of the line with that single act.
    Sure you have more to learn, but you also know you've got the temperment and soul of a writer. You know enough to see you need to learn.

    Hang in there, girl.

    It's one part inspiration and 99 parts perspiration.

    Which is why authors always smell so bad.

  34. Nancy, do you ever USE anything from your cut and save file?
    I do that same thing, cut a huge chunk of some scene to use later, then I never use it.

    Still, I usually save it. JUST IN CASE.

    Just in case WHAT? I have no idea.

  35. I remember when I was in college someone told me when a big test was coming:
    Pray with all your might and study as if there is no God.

    I think the combination is pretty good at creating success.

  36. Hahaha! Oh, this thread is killing me.

    'Manuscriptus Incitus Vomitorare' was my first novel. The second was 'Millimetrus Fere Insanitas'. The third was 'Liber Ad Absurdum'.

    Ad Nauseum. I adore them all!

    Downloaded your book, Nikki!! Can't wait to read it.

    And The Moral Premise... love it. Can only read a few pages at a time before having to go edit something. Wich is good.

  37. Humilitus ad Literarium as Usualus

  38. PS I got my Romantic Times Magazine today.
    I got FOUR STARS:
    coming in August

    Book three of the Kincaid Brides is Seth’s story. With her trademark laugh-out-loud moments, Connealy breathes new life into an old storyline. The characters are fresh and innovating. There is romance, mystery, laughter and secrets for readers to discover.
    Seth Kincaid has not been the same since the fire in the cave; it did not help when he ran off to fight in the Civil War and came back a bit touched in the head. He has learned he got married while he was away, but he does not remember his wife, Callie. She has searched for him — with the intention of killing him for leaving her. Seth knows, deep down inside, that she won’t kill him, and will in fact help him heal. When someone from their pa’s secret life comes to the ranch, all the brothers and their women form an unbreakable family unit to keep everything they have worked for in the family.

  39. Nikki Arana FOUR STARS for The Next Target

    Cara Lynn James
    (That show off)

    A Path Toward Love

  40. Libri est magnus frigus

    (my book is hugely cool)

    You must trust me on this translation...........because if you distrust and check, you may find out it means something like

    ..... There's a big book in the refrigerator.

    Not sure.

  41. Mary Connealy -- Their pa's secret life?? I have to wait until August??

    I so want to see Seth with a wife of his own ... but then so does Ethan.

    Congratulations on ALL THOSE STARS, Mary, Nikki and Cara!

    Nancy C

  42. >>Mary Connealy said...
    Nancy, do you ever USE anything from your cut and save file? I do that same thing, cut a huge chunk of some scene to use later, then I never use it. Still, I usually save it. JUST IN CASE. Just in case WHAT? I have no idea.<<

    Use something from the cut and save file? Uh ... no ... I hadn't thought of that. Which of course begs the question why do I save it. But you know what? As sure as I don't save it, I'm gonna need it.

    Nancy C

  43. Here is an ad in the Romantic Times magazine for Over the Edge.

    (I apologize for all the RT talk. I got my magazine today and I've just started subscribing. Lots and lots of secular stuff in there--you wouldn't believe some of the BOOK COVERS--I don't think I'd have it in the house if I had small children, just a warning.....

    Bethany House does such a good job of writing catchy back cover copy and ad copy.

    Here's the wording of the ad....

    Sure, he's got excuses--maybe even valid reasons--but what's a girl to do when the man she married conveniently forgets he has a wife?

  44. Thanks for the warning, Mary C.

    I was thinking I'd subscribe but not if I have to hide it! there's only room for chocolate in my secret stash.

    Congrats on the stars, ladies!!!

  45. You can probably subscribe online, Virginia. Or maybe if you subscribe you automatically get online access to it. Not sure.


  46. And Nancy C, oh yes their Pa had a secret life....the louse! And all those chickens are coming home to roost, along with the bats that are in Seth Kincaid's belfry.

  47. I had no idea there were so many Latin scholars here. I took Latin in high school.

    Veni. Vici. Vedi.

    Where's Vince? He speaks fluent Latin. You should see him order in a Latin restaurant.

  48. WHOO-HOO, MARE ... GREAT review for Over the Edge!!! And Cara -- 4-12 stars ... HOLY COW!!!


  49. This is a great blog. It is really like chatting. Nancy C asked about establishing the heroine's regular world first. I guess the question is - first before what? Not first before the inciting incident which launches the heroine on her journey beacause you want to start the story with something that draws the reader in and keeps them turning pages. Though come to think of it my heroine Austia in The Next Target is at home in bed when the book opens and she gets up and gets the newspaper. She opens it and reads that someone she knows has been murdered. So we got a glimpse of her ordinary world before the inciting incident!

    Hey, Mary C. There is a review of The Next Target in that RT!

    Thanks so much for having me.

  50. Nancy C, throw out that book unless you're determined to land the next big Penguin multi-million dollar contract.

    Good luck with that, and please remember that I AM YOUR FRIEND.

    But because those chances are somewhat astronomical, I'd still chuck any advice that tells you that these days...

    Now... I'm usually wrong so DO NOT LISTEN to anything I say.


    I'm loud and that's worth something.

    In Women's Fiction, you can get away with that sometimes. It's a soft, literary sometimes lyrical style...

    But in romance these days (even longer ones, check Mary and Julie and Susie Warren, etc.... You generally find yourself thrust into high gear and hold on for the ride.

    It's a trend, but a paying one, so that's what I'd look at. What's selling today.

    Hey, I'm restocking the sweet tea bar and the cooler of Cokes... Diet Coke with Lime... Oh my, oh my, oh my, I'm lovin' it!

    And I love Stan's Moral Premise, I think he put into words what most of us see in works we love and that gives us a means to access that same story rhythm.

    In our own genre and voice, of course.

  51. Tina, I think you're right, Mary actually was spawned from a blizzard in the Texas mountains and came forward, guns blazing, writing million sellers.

    Reason enough to mock her right there.

    Eh, Connealy?????

  52. I can attest to the fact that Nebraska has filed papers asserting Mary's general lack of knowledge.

    Luckily, publishers don't go to Nebraska so she's got a boatload of contracts.

    Having said THAT... And being almost nice to her... I have to feel bad for the poor person who ruined their story.

    I'm probably/possibly wiping tears, at this moment.

    But the glory comes in writing it again, and nailing those one-liners, those pathos-filled moments, the flights of empathy and sympathy, and the roof.

    (I have new roofs on the mind)

    If you're going to nail something, might as well add the roof in, right?

    Pass the chocolate.

    Someone did bring chocolate. Right?


  53. Oh, the cut-and-keep file. Because we're so sure it's brilliant and might not ever come out so well again...

    I have never, ever, ever gone back to it. It's our Linus Security Blanket, just knowing IT'S THERE IF NEEDED.


    And God bless my editors because they are not afraid to hike a brow and say...




    I can deal with honesty at both levels way easier than I can with someone schmoozing me. You can't schmooze a schmoozer. 'Sall I'm sayin'.

  54. Oh, there were hints of Over the Edge plot in something.... Was it in Out of Control?

    Or was it when we were talking? :)

    Glimpses of a woman...

    Blue eyes.

    Or maybe brown, whatever, like that matters. :)

    Can't wait to read it. I finally got a chance to start my TBR pile this week and Audie, Ethan and I have been rockin' babies together. Although they've been way busier than I've been.

    In some areas.

    Oh my.

  55. HI NIKKI!!!
    Here's the Next Target review from Romantic Times Magazine.

    Arana's latest novel delves into the conflict within the Muslim communith between those who stay true to their religion and those who convert to Christianity. Powerfully written, this is a story about what it means to live a life worthy of God's calling and about what love, faith and forgiveness can lead to.

  56. Well said, Nikki. I cringe at some of the stuff I submitted early in my career. But, on the other hand, some people might wait TOO long to submit. Dunno...

    Yikes. That Mary is one scary dude! Kinda Alien Cowgirlish...

  57. Mary was spawned from a blizzard in the Texas mountains and came forward, guns blazing????

    Why does this make me want to change my profile picture, Ruthy?

    I seem a bit too calm in my current one.

  58. >> Ruth Logan Herne said...
    Oh, there were hints of Over the Edge plot in something.... Was it in Out of Control?<<

    Out of Control was a while ago for me, but I just finished Over the Edge last week ... and in it Seth has one of his 'moments' when he says he misses her. They ask who she is and of course Seth has no idea what he meant :-) I'm still wondering if there was some hint about Pa's secret life in Out of Control ...

    Nancy C

  59. Nikki, maybe that's it about the real world/inciting incident ... a glimpse. The reason I asked is the inciting incident doesn't happen until the second/third page right now. The problem is if I don't have a bit of the set-up before the incident, then I have to work the backstory in long after it's really needed.

    I realize that makes no sense to anyone but me ...

    Ruthy, I'm tossing the book now :-)

    Thanks again, Nikki. Interesting post.

    Nancy C

  60. Wait! Wait! I just finished "In Too Deep" not "Over the Edge." Mercy I scare myself some times.

    Nancy C

  61. Nancy, I thought maybe you got some magical advanced copy of Over the Edge.

    Which would have made me feel sorry for myself since I haven't gotten any such thing.

  62. Look at all those stars for August!! WooHoo!

    Cara-babe! Good for you. 4 and a bit more.

    Mary, Nikki, Cara - I'll be looking for the normal life behind the inciting incidents in these upcoming books...

  63. I subscribed to RT years ago when I thought it would help me become a better writer. Ha! All it did was scar my children so now that I'm published, they tell everyone their mother writes Christian erotica, LOL! Gotta love 'em, right?

  64. I'd actually like all those stars just for myself. 12 1/2 stars for Over the Edge.

    Sorry, Cara and Nikki, I'm sure you can borrow someone else's. Good luck.

  65. Tina took Latin.

    Tina's dating Vince.

    Mary's stealing stars.

    Look what happens when I leave for a few paltry hours to grab a pedicure.

    But my toes look Billy Crystal "MAHVELOUS!" ;)

    And that's worth somethin', right?

  66. Thanks for these tips. I think the hardest one for most writers is the internal conflict, because readers are more aware of the obvious external action.
    Pam Zollman

  67. I love this blog. I want my blog to be like your blog. (stamps foot) But my blog is about the Hell my life has been lately. (sighs) Yeah, I pour my heart out in my blog because I know there are others who have troubles from time to time and I like to encourage them. Maybe some of you guys could go over there and help me encourage those readers : ) I would love you to leave a scripture comment on one of the posts that others will find when they visit. OH. I just had a brilliant idea. If you feel led, why don't you post a scripture of encouragement here and I'll cut and paste them into my next blog post and say - here are some words of encouragement from Seekerville. The blog post title will be You are Not Alone or We are one Body or something like that. I'm never sure until I've written it. What do you guys think? I love to encourage the body of Christ. And I love the idea of Seekerville visiting my blog to lift up others. . Hmm. If this is completely inappropriate, just tell me. It won't be the first time I've done something completely inappropriate. Remember, I minister to Muslims!

  68. Love to win your book

  69. Would love to receive your book.