Too Soon!

Oh, the excitement of a manuscript request! An agent or editor has shown interest in the work you’ve labored over for so long and nothing could be better! But instead of the contract you were hoping for, they send editorial notes for revision.

The best thing you can do, while you have their interest, is to dash off your edits as quickly as possible and make sure all their questions are answered before they forget about you, right? Preferably overnight, and no more than three days, yeah?

SUPER LOUD NO.

I hear from editors and agents all the time who spend days, weeks, possibly even months, reading and considering a manuscript, thinking hard about ways in which to fix it.  And then a writer turns around and sends it back in less than a week. Pub pros, can I get a collective AAARGH?

This is frustrating for a few reasons, but here are my top two:

  1. It seems like you haven’t spent any time digesting my notes, or letting my ideas simmer and gel with your ideas. I cannot believe you’ve made the most thoughtful revision in a day or two. I’m glad you’re eager, but I’m bummed that you’re not being careful.
  1. Once something is off my desk, I’ve breathed a sigh of “done!” and moved on to other things. So when that thing appears again immediately, it’s like those effing birthday candles you can’t blow out. Just like I want you to spend some time apart from your manuscript to be able to approach it with fresh eyes, my eyes also need freshening. Plus the 50 other things I’m working on also need my attention.

I’ll paraphrase every writer ever: There is no writing, only rewriting.

Nothing brilliant is dashed off in an hour. You may want something to be finished, but more, you need to want it to be perfect. I’m a firm believer in putting a draft away for a week or two before digging back in. Let yourself forget what’s in there, and take the time to imagine how your story will look with new ideas implemented before putting fingers to keys. And if you think what you wrote in the last hour is gorgeous flawlessness, put it away for a week. You might find some flaws when you return. Revise. And then sit quietly and twiddle your thumbs for a bit. Then re-read and revise again. Then read out loud to your cat and revise again. THEN send it back.

Agents and editors aren’t going to forget you. You’re not going to lose the attention of a truly interested pro if you take the time to write smartly and considerately.

Let your email garner a “Yay, it’s here!” instead of a groan of “But I just sent those no-ho-hooootes.”

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9 comments

  1. edbriant · December 22, 2015

    Thanks for posting this.

    Like

  2. edbriant · December 22, 2015

    Timely reminder.

    Like

  3. Mary Zisk · December 22, 2015

    I pray for the day I get revision notes–so ready to collaborate.

    Like

  4. kristinrusso · December 22, 2015

    Your blog posts are about all the things I wondered about, did not know, and was afraid to ask. Thanks MUCH!

    Like

  5. rupalimulge · December 23, 2015

    Can’t get more precise than this for us. 🙂 Wonderful post!

    Like

  6. Laurie L. Warchol · December 26, 2015

    I love any information that gets us into the head of an agent or editor so thanks for letting us know what makes you tick. Very much appreciated, Heather.

    Like

  7. Darshana · December 29, 2015

    Love this post! Thanks! I needed to hear this as I work on a revision for a prospective agent.

    Like

  8. Jennifer DuBose · January 13, 2016

    Yes. It’s an absolutely organic process that cannot be rushed. I’ve observed this in my own dance with my own writing, too, and love that you articulate it as you have: that you want “my ideas (to) simmer and gel with your ideas.” Yay! Many thanks for the marvelous peek into your process!

    Like

  9. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 01-14-2016 | The Author Chronicles

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