The Red Pen: When to revise your manuscript and when to keep submitting

MarkupsWhen you submit your manuscript to agents you get a lot of form rejections amidst your feedback–that’s the way it goes. But, when you finally get personalized criticism that might suggest a revision do you jump at the chance to edit your work to make that agent or editor happy?

My rules of revision guidelines:

Wait a few days before grabbing the red pen.

You need time to digest the feedback, gather your thoughts about it, and decide how to proceed. Never pick up the red pen in haste. Once you’ve decided how you feel about it you can start to put a plan together.

Wait until you have a batch of comments so you can see if there are consistencies.

A list of feedback from different sources can be overwhelming. If you have conflicting advice, how do you decide which road to go down? It takes moments of clarity to be able to sift through feedback and come out with a solution. If the feedback isn’t pointing you in the right direction, then don’t start them half-heartedly. Revisions only work when you get on board with them and get passionate about seeing them executed.

Wait until you receive revision notes that connect with you and will take your book to the next level. Continue reading The Red Pen: When to revise your manuscript and when to keep submitting

An agent has opened the door to conversation. Now what?

King QuoteThe moment has come, an agent has requested and read your full manuscript and while it wasn’t an offer the agent has provided editorial notes and opened the door to seeing a rewrite or future work.

Great news! You’ve caught someone’s eye, and even though it wasn’t what you wanted (i.e. ‘the call’) it’s a step in the right direction.

What are the rules of agent communication and unsigned authors?

Get in touch only when it’s appropriate

Now that the door is open it’s not your chance to bombard us with emails, questions and more. Don’t be the author that latches on and doesn’t let go. Agents will see this as a red flag for future correspondence and will lessen your chances of getting signed by them. When your revisions are done, you have received an offer of representation for the project they are waiting on from you, or your next project is ready–then it’s time. Whatever guidelines the agent left for getting back in touch (i.e. revisions or next project) follow those closely.

Reply to the email that opens the door

If an extensive edit letter is provided confirm that you received it. Agents want to know that their extra time and efforts are being seen by you and considered. If we don’t get a response we’ll think that you have moved on or don’t agree with our edit notes. This is another instance where we see the communication style of an author and whether we jive with it.

We do get a lot of submissions, but we also have a good memory Continue reading An agent has opened the door to conversation. Now what?

When do I know to revise? And when do I put the project in the drawer?

You’ve been working on a novel for weeks, months, years, you have been querying for what seems like ages, or your agent has been submitting your work for pushing a year or 18 months.

You’ve tinkered with revisions based on feedback.

But how do you know when it’s time to do a major revision, or whether it’s time to put it in the drawer? (If you have an agent this is a conversation to be having with them.)

It’s easy to get attached to your work, you’ve gestated the project and watched it grow. However, at some point if the manuscript isn’t grabbing hold of readers you have to make a decision. Here are some helpful tips…

When to revise:
  • The topic/theme/genre is still relevant and editors are actively acquiring in that space
  • The characters are still speaking to you and you feel constantly drawn back to it (also a sign that the work might not have been fully realized)
  • The industry feedback you are getting is supportive and suggesting revisions that are moving in the right direction
  • You agree with the feedback you are receiving
When you might want to put it in the drawer: Continue reading When do I know to revise? And when do I put the project in the drawer?

My Manuscript Evaluation Checklist

With all the submissions I get I use my intuition and my checklist to see how they fare. While it is mostly gut reaction I need the checklist to balance out my feelings so I can best evaluate the content and quality of the material I’m looking at.

I’ve received some great queries lately so if you want to know how to get from the query stage to me interested in taking your work further I share my checklist showing what I look for when I read your work:

  • Does the beginning work? Does the ending work?
  • Does the plot have good pace, does it make sense, and is it a natural outcome for the premise?
  • Do I care about the outcome of the characters?
  • Do the characters stick to their traits?
  • How many subplots are there? Do they have appropriate attention with what you’ve set out to do in the novel?
  • Is the writing of high, lasting quality?
  • Is it special? Will it stand out on an editor’s desk and in a bookshop? Continue reading My Manuscript Evaluation Checklist