Sunday, February 13, 2011

Query Rounds Again (Lessons Learned)


I have learned some hard lessons over these last few months.

Number one is that it often takes several editing sessions for a novel to be polished. Late last year, I printed my novel out, edited it by hand and made changes to my Word document, and then conducted a spell and grammar check. I sent out my polished query, received request for two partials, and rejections on the rest. I made sure my partials were squeaky clean.

Number two lesson is that if your novel is still going through the critique process, even if on the last few chapters, it is not ready for submission to agents. How do I know this? Because, as my group talked about the last few chapters of my novel, they all said the climax was not strong enough. My character had to be more involved in the outcome. I had sent out queries for my novel, thinking my work was fine. It as not, which took me back to the drawing board.

I reworked the last three chapters and added to the first chapter. Once additions were completed, I once again printed out the manuscripts for a hard edit. I made the changes on my Word documents, and then thought I was done. After this, I sent out four more queries. Imagine my horror when I noticed a paragraph on page five that I had hard-edited but somehow missed making changes to in my Word version! Luckily, only one query went out this way before I caught the errors.

Lesson number three is that too much editing can kill voice, but not enough can kill your chances of publication. I am sure agents do not expect perfection, but they have a right to see something professional and polished. After all, they work on commission only and do not make any money until my book is sold. They must choose their projects carefully.

For my own edification, here is a recap of these important lessons: 

  • It usually takes more than one editing session to create a polished manuscript.
  • Your novel is not ready if you are still going through the editing or critique process (or if it is still out to beta readers).
  • Too much editing can kill a manuscript, but not enough can kill your chances of publication.  

Now that my novel has been edited, there will be no more changes unless under editorial direction (once an agent asks for changes). I have received one rejection from the four queries I recently sent out.  I have three more responses to receive. Soon, I will send out another round.

In the writing business, patience is a virtue. Thorough editing is a must.  

I have a writing acquaintance who says to submit to agents until there are no more agents left, and then submit to publishers. I am ready and willing to continue traveling this road toward publication.

Two websites which have been invaluable in my writing process are Writers Digest Forums and Absolute Write Water Cooler. For anyone who has never been to either website, you are missing interaction with those who have successfully published and are willing to share their experience. Information in the writing business is knowledge, and knowledge is power (to coin a cliché). We can always learn from those who have traveled the publishing path before us.

Happy writing to all!

9 comments:

Jai Joshi said...

Good lessons to learn, Susan. I've always admired your professional and perseverant spirit and how you always look to learn and more forward. Look luck with the next round of queries.

Jai

Jai Joshi said...

Oops, typo! I meant Good luck with the next round of queries. *grin*

Jai

Susan Littlefield said...

Jai,

I need all the look luck I can get! Sorry, I just could not resist! :D

I tell you, writing a novel is tough! I really appreciate the feedback I get from beta readers too.

How have you been doing in our your new home?

Anna said...

A thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing your advice!

Susan Littlefield said...

Thank you for reading, Anna!

M L Marshall said...

Glad I found this blog, just joined the Absolute Write forums.

This post is great. I'm on what will hopefully be the last read through of my first novel.

The first readthrough exposed a few plot holes, tonnes of spelling mistakes, a few dud chapters and more character development etc.

I'm getting excited and slightly ahead of myself now as I'm looking at what agents to approach. But I have 93,000 words to get though before I even think about sending out queries.

This post has taught me to slow down and get the book polished before anything else.

I'll be bookmarking/following this

Susan Littlefield said...

Hi ML,

Absolute Write is one of the best writer's forums- they are jam packed with information, as well as a place of lively conversations. Glad you joined.

Just keep working on editing your work. It's sometimes difficult, but well worth it. Have you heard of Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Brown and Dave King? It's an excellent book on editing.

Dead Man Walking said...

Amen to that. I'm currently on version 10.0 my novel....this, after almost 3 years in the trunk. It's all about patience, I suppose.

Susan Littlefield said...

Rob,

I am still revising that novel. It seems that I had a whole lot more to do on it than just minor things.

I hear you when it comes to patience. My mother used to say, "patience is a virtue," and I now believe her!

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