There’s a time to query.
There’s a time to wait.
There’s a time to … revise?
I started querying DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN in April, entered a little contest called The Writers Voice in May, queried a bit more for the first two weeks in June, then decided to wait. You see, I had quite a few submissions out at that point, and honestly I was afraid to keep sending out queries without knowing if my manuscript was really ready. I thought it was, or I wouldn’t have been sending queries out in the first place, but after the mistakes I’d made querying my earlier novel–too many too soon–I’d much rather err on the side of caution with this one and give it the best possible chance.
Over the next two months, a bit of feedback trickled in, but none of it lined up. And that’s when I came to the question of whether to revise or not. The agents didn’t mention the same issues, so were their comments just a matter of taste or something I needed to fix? I decided not to do anything for the moment.
Enter WriteOnCon. I came away with the basic idea that if an agent loves your work enough, it’s ok if it isn’t perfect. They’ll work with you to get it where it needs to be. So I started querying again. I also had a couple more people read DUET, and reader feedback confirmed for me again that it was ready for agents.
But. A couple of comments I’d gotten in the forums at WriteOnCon kept niggling in the back of my mind, so I revised my first page–of course after I’d already sent out some queries. The comments weren’t necessarily new, but it was the right time for me to hear them and figure out what to do with them.
I think that’s a big part of knowing when to revise. Sometimes a valid comment doesn’t make any sense to you, but when it’s said in the right way at the right time, boom! You know what to do. This really came into focus for me a couple of weeks ago. I entered #GUTGAA and received three votes to go on to the agent round. However, one of the judges said she’d had reservations about voting for me because DUET sounded too old and because of a Bugs Bunny mention in the first 150 words. I’d heard both of these comments before, but two months ago I wouldn’t have known what to do about it or even if I should do anything about it.
From the beginning, my query worked. I received a number of requests off of it. But just because it was good didn’t mean it couldn’t be better. Thanks to WriteOnCon, I now had this idea that friendship has to be a major focus of MG. One agent even said he wouldn’t consider an MG if friendship wasn’t mentioned in the query. Well, friendship is a huge part of DUET, but I’d never figured out how to put it into the query. But now, because someone in a position of power told me it gave them pause, I figured it out, and the query has much more of an MG feel than it did before. I know it’s stronger as a result.
The same goes for the Bugs Bunny mention. There’s a scene in my novel where the main character goes into an old Looney Tunes cartoon. I’m confident I’ve handled it well in the actual manuscript as none of my readers have had an issue with it. However, this judge brought it home to me that it was an issue in the first page. All the times someone said before that MG readers wouldn’t know Bugs Bunny and I ignored it because I knew it was fine in the manuscript, it didn’t occur to me that the first page was the problem. It was a simple enough solution to take out that reference and leave it for later. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out sooner. I guess we writers have hard heads.
But wait, I have an even better example. The first day of the #GUTGAA agent round, I received a rejection from an agent who’d been considering my full. Her reason was exactly the same as the very first agent who rejected DUET. Now, I have to back up a bit to say that this first rejection completely baffled me. Her issue with the manuscript was what I thought was the very best part of it. We’re not talking about a single chapter here but a major chunk that makes up the premise. I dismissed it pretty much out of hand because I just didn’t get it. But when this most recent agent said it, I’d had four months with that other one swirling around in my head, and suddenly a light bulb went off.
All this time I’d assumed the section she mentioned was the best part and worried about the rest living up to it. But that was just me being blind. Those parts had come so easily to me I didn’t work very hard on them when I revised, instead focusing on the other subplots. Looking back at my first draft, those sections didn’t change much. While I ignored those easy parts and felt insecure about the rest, the opposite actually happened. And when I looked at it that way, yet another agent’s comment came into focus. So I now had three agent comments in line.
Well, you can guess that this is when I figured out I did need to revise. I spent the week of #GUTGAA going through those parts of the novel and beefing them up. I know the manuscript as a whole is the better for it. It would have been nice if I’d figured this out when that first agent mentioned it, but I wasn’t ready to apply it then. And I truly believe that if any of the agents who read that version had loved my writing and premise enough, they would have worked with me on it. Instead, I’m grateful they gave me feedback that has helped me get the manuscript to the next level.
I received an agent request the last day of #GUTGAA, and that agent has the shiny new version. I also followed up with an agent from that first contest and got the opportunity to send her a revised version, so I’m feeling pretty good about it right now.
So am I done revising? Probably not. If I do get an agent with this version, I’m sure they’ll have changes. If I don’t, I’ll probably get feedback as to why not. It might not make sense to me at first, but I’ll keep chugging along until it clicks.
So where are you in the journey? What has made you decide to revise?
I’ve just wrapped up a full re-write on my novel. Keeping the basic premise but aging it up, changing the plot details, adding and removing characters, etc. Now I’m basically back to having a first draft, and beta feedback is coming in. I’m forcing myself not to revise for two weeks, giving my betas time to get back to me, and letting my subconscious have some time to mull things over. If I took the ideal road, I’d continue like this until it was truly done–as in, all beta feedback was purely subjective, not *problems*–but, I have an agent waiting on the revision . . . and while that’s wonderful I also believe it would be another 6months if I truly let the MS work itself out. But I won’t send out another query until then, that’s for sure!
I know how hard it is to wait and not just keep fixing, but it’s great that you have a revision request from an agent. I’ve yet to receive an R&R. That’s the next best thing to a “yes” so I hope it works out for you!
I absolutely love being able to share this journey with you since our paths have been so parallel along the way. Since I also held off sending out more queries until getting more feedback on requested material, I was likewise unsure about revising as it began to trickle in. How much of the feedback was subjective? How much was actionable? How much will really make a difference? I’m also about to start a small revision round in the hopes that it will take that last shred of doubt away and turn my ms into something someone will love!
Ah, the questions we never have definite answers to. They drive me crazy! Good luck with the revisions!