By Orly Konig-Lopez
Querying authors know the feeling: Your email pings with an incoming message. It’s from one of the agents who requested your manuscript. Your heart beats in your ears, you close one eye, tilt your head to a 35 degree angle and squint at the words. Maybe this is “the one.”
“Thank you for sharing, blah blah. I liked blah blah. But … ”
You groan. It’s a rejection.
You keep reading anyway. This is where the “but” gets interesting. There are notes. Detailed notes. And a request to resubmit after you’ve made the revisions. Whoa!!!!!!!
Once you’re done with the “it’s not a no” dance (and get an ice pack for the muscle you pulled – not that I’m speaking from experience on this), you sit down to pound out those revisions.
Wait! Back away from the keyboard. Seriously. Hands up. Scootch back. This is not the time for hasty changes. I know, I know … “But the agent is waaaiiiiittttting. And if I don’t do it faaaaaast, she’ll forget about me.”
She is waiting, but she won’t forget. You want to make those revisions count.
Hey, I said back away from the keyboard!
Here’s what you need to do:
1) Read the revise and resubmit notes again. Walk away. Let them bubble in your head for a day or two. Then read them again. This time highlight the ones that speak to you. You know the ones, those comments that have you smacking your forehead and muttering, “why didn’t I see that?”
2) Now pull up every personalized rejection you’ve received on that manuscript – trust me! Make notes. Are there any similarities to the comments? Is there another agent who rejected the manuscript but sent some feedback that’s consistent with the R&R agent?
3) Re-read the manuscript from start to finish. Print it out or read it on your e-reader, whatever will give you a fresh perspective. Don’t edit! Just read and make notes. You might be surprised at the things you see this time around.
4) Organize your edits. Between your notes and what the agents have pointed out, you probably have a nice list of changes to make. Compare your notes with the feedback you received from the agents. Which ones are burning to be made? Which ones are changes just for the sake of changing? Highlight the ones that will have the most impact. Jot down notes to keep you focused with any major changes. Personally, if I have a big plot changer, I write it down on a sticky note and post it next to my computer. That way I never lose sight of the “big picture.”
Now the fun begins. I look at revisions like a puzzle and I love puzzles. I prefer to edit on hardcopy. When I’ve done a first pass, I type in my changes. That gives me a second pass at tweaking the revisions.
5) Sit on it. Not literally, you’re not trying to hatch novellas. Put the manuscript aside for a few days. Sweet talk a couple of your readers into giving it another look. Then read it again. If you read it last time as a print out, this time, read it on an e-reader. Ignore that little voice taunting you to send it NOW because how much longer do you expect that agent to wait. Don’t give in! Patience (not a word that comes easily to me, by the way) is your friend.
Don’t skim through the manuscript looking for obvious mistakes. You’ve made changes, maybe even significant changes. You might have missed something or introduced new problems. Once you’ve incorporated this last round of edits, read it again.
NOW you can hit send!
Whether that agent offers representation or not, you’ll have a stronger manuscript and the best part – at least in my opinion – you just might have learned something about your writing.
Have you had success with a revise & resubmit? What do you do with personalized rejections – delete, file, or analyze?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet.
When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.