Posted by: nancycurteman | February 11, 2011

5 Preventable Errors That Guarantee Rejection of Your Mystery Novel

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Killer IdeasWe all submit our mystery novels to agents and publishers in hopes they will love them and immediately decide to publish them. We also know the agent must opt to read the full manuscript before making a decision. Sometimes this doesn’t happen. Instead, the novel goes straight to the slush pile. Why? Here are five preventable errors that ensure an agent will not read the manuscript. Result is rejection.

1. Spelling errors. There is little excuse these days for poor spelling with all the online spelling aids. An agent can quickly detect incorrect spelling using various computer programs. So can you.

2. Incorrect English mechanics. Mistakes in capitalization, punctuation, verb agreement, forming plurals and possessive word forms, to name a few. Again, many resources are available to help you with basic rules of English usage. An excellent one is Strunk and White’s book “The Elements of Style.” Don’t forget your computer’s grammar check.

3. Agents have no interest in boring, repetitive expressions. Delete Cliches (the ball is in her court, off the top of my head, no rhyme or reason, a necessary evil) and trite phrases (all in all, at the crack of dawn, first and foremost, in a nutshell, last but not least). Do it before a publisher deletes your mystery novel.

4. Your mystery novel must always move forward to the final climax. Replace story-stopping passive voice with active voice. Instead of writing: The house was occupied by thugs. Write: Thugs occupied the house.

5. Overused words are novel killers. You must search out those words you tend to use over and over. Your computer word search may save your novel from the trash.

Don’t let preventable errors keep your Mystery novel from the shelves of your favorite book store.

More Writing Tips:

How to Write a Query Letter for a Mystery Novel
How to Write a Synopsis of Your Mystery Novel
How to Market Your Mystery Novel
How to Avoid “Automatic Rejection” of Your Mystery Novel


  1. Thanks yet again Nancy for a good pointer. I missed the last one. Gotta keep up here.


  2. Good stuff, Nancy. This should all be promoted up to “common sense” for writers. Good tips!


  3. Thanks, NC.

    Active verbs make writing more exciting. Everytime I see a “was” in my writing, I try to rearrange the sentence to excise it.


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