ext to checks, the most intangible thing in this business of writing is that quantity Suspense.
It is quite as elusive as editorial praise, as hard to corner and recognize as a contract writer.
But without any fear of being contradicted I can state that suspense, or rather, the lack of it, is probably responsible for more rejects than telling an editor he is wrong.
You grab the morning mail, find a long brown envelope. You read a slip which curtly says, Lacks suspense.
Your wife starts cooking beans, you start swearing at the most enigmatic, unexplanatory, hopeless phrase in all that legion of reject phrases.
If the editor had said, I dont think your hero had a tough enough time killing Joe Blinker, you could promptly sit down and kill Joe Blinker in a most thorough manner.
But when the editor brands and damns you with that first cousin to infinity, Suspense, you just sit and swear.
Often the editor, in a hurry and beleaguered by stacks of manuscripts higher than the Empire State, has to tell you something to explain why he doesnt like your wares. So he fastens upon the action, perhaps. You can tell him (and wont, if youre smart) that your action is already so fast that you had to grease your typewriter roller to keep the rubber from getting hot.
Maybe he says your plot isnt any good, but you know doggone well that it is a good plot and has been a good plot for two thousand years.
Maybe, when he gives you those comments, he is, as I say, in a hurry. The editor may hate to tell you you lack suspense because it is something like B.O. your best friends wont tell you.
But the point is that, whether he says that your Mary Jones reminds him of the Perils of Pauline, or that your climax is flat, theres a chance that he means suspense.