Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing Series: Revise & Resubmit and What Really Happens Then

For today's writing series post, I asked a number of writers whom I knew to tell me about their own experiences with getting a "Revise and Resubmit" from an agent. As you'll see, no two "R&Rs" are alike, and actual results may vary!

Changes requested: Radical changes! My viewpoint character in the original draft went to very dark places, and the agent asked for me to shift the entire tone of the second half, and have him find redemption rather than Evil. It was over 50% re-write.
How did you feel?: It wasn't my original vision, obviously, but in terms of saleability it made a hell of a lot of sense. So I gave it a try and made the changes.
Time from request to re-submission: 2 months
Time from re-submission to response: 12+ months
(After acknowledgement of receipt, she didn't reply. No reply to nudges, either. For twelve months.)

Outcome: OFFER from R&R agent and from other agent
I wrote it off, and assumed no response meant no. I got an offer of rep elsewhere, (which required another huge re-write, fun fun fun!) and I mailed the R&R agent to let her know, along with everything else outstanding on my spreadsheet. It turned out she had read, loved, and given the MS to other people at the agency, and she was about to offer rep herself. I felt pretty bad, but twelve months of no response is a long time to lose trust in a business relationship, so I went with my gut and signed with the first offering agent.

Changes requested:Agent 1: Plot, Agent 2: Pacing, Agent 3: Pacing
How did you feel?Agent 1 offered me a phone call, as well as 10 pages of notes. We brainstormed together via email. Agent 2 has offered me a R&R and good advice in the past. Agent 3's comments were so close to Agent 2's comments that I knew the revisions needed to happen.
Time from request to re-submission:For the plot--four months--I basically re-wrote the book. I received additional R&Rs on the revised manuscript before I heard back from Agent 1, who had not yet read it. Since the comments from Agents 2 and 3 made so much sense, I asked all agents if they would accept an updated copy. The pacing R&Rs took about six weeks.
Time from re-submission to response: still waiting
Outcome: still waiting (good luck!)

Changes requested:
When I received an R&R response from an agent, I was conflicted. On the one hand, I was thrilled by what she liked about my manuscript. On the other, I wasn't sure how I could improve a main character's motivation for an important action, could make one action scene more dramatic, or could spice up the conflict in the latter part of the story. I'd already tried to do all that through three previous drafts and three sets of beta comments. Argh, what did she want!

How did you feel?
I contacted my betas and asked for feedback. I didn't hear, "Wow, I don't understand what this agent is saying at all," but rather, "She makes some good points." Over several days, I came to realize the agent was right, but I still wasn't sure how to make the corrections. We emailed back and forth as I sought clarification and bounced ideas off her. After a week, I had a clear vision for how I wanted to revise my manuscript and was actually happy to do so. The work would end up stronger.

Time from request to re-submission: 5 weeks
It took me five weeks to make my changes and have one of my trusted betas read through to check for any problems with what I did: was anything nonsensical, contradictory, or ambiguous; was the grammar or punctuation off; were there omitted, extra, or misspelled words I didn't see because I'd read the book so many times? Then I sent the revision off to the agent with a cover email describing the changes I had made.

Time from re-submission to response: 2 weeks
Outcome: OFFER
Two weeks later, she offered representation. I looked at the other agents with pages or outstanding queries and realized I wouldn't prefer any of them to her. So I withdrew my manuscript from consideration by any of them and happily signed that long-sought contract with her agency.

Changes requested: Initially, it came as a rejection, but with really specific feedback, so I wrote back to thank them for taking the time to send the feedback, and mentioned that I was considering taking a stab at it. They wrote back requesting an R&R. The changes were specific to my protagonist's character arc--they felt the way he evolved was a little too subtle and wanted to see him change more dramatically by the end of the book. 

How did you feel?
I could see their point, but was very torn about it because I had worked really hard specifically to keep the character arc subtle in the first place. Still, I could see where they were coming from, so I was willing to give it  a go. (Maybe they were right and I was wrong as to what kind of approach would work better)
Time from request to re-submission: 3+ weeks
I was about 3 weeks in, when I got an offer from a different agent for the MS "as is" and decided to go with that agent because, after talking to him, I realized he completely got the subtlety I'd been going for in the first place. That being said, if I had finished the edits for the R&R, it probably would have taken me about a month all in all.
Time from re-submission to response: N/A
Outcome: WITHDRAWAL due to OFFER from another agent on the original!
[W]hen I wrote to give notice of offer of rep for the MS "as is," they wrote back with a very nice note, wishing me the best and reminding me that this is a subjective business and that they're glad the book found a home with someone who got it the way it was originally written.


Changes requested: The MS was on the short side, and she wanted to see more of the H/h's character arcs fleshed out apart from the romance aspect. She asked pointed questions about what she thought was missing, but generally didn't have an issue with the plot structure itself.
How did you feel?: I loved the requested changes. There had been something in the back of my mind bothering me about the plot of the novel, so when I got her email and notes it was a forehead-slapping moment: "Duh!"
Time from request to re-submission: 3 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
Final outcome was a rejection. A short email saying the new version was better, but she couldn't take it on.

Changes requested: Pacing and plot
How did you feel?: At first, uncertain. But I was much happier with the end result after the revision.
Time from request to re-submission: 3 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
She praised the revision, but passed

Changes requested:
Plot strengthening and tightening
How did you feel?:
Considering my experience with my first R&R, I was more open-minded. This time I researched even more about story structure and plotting, and the revised version was much stronger
Time from request to re-submission: 1 month
Time from re-submission to response: 3+ months
(I withdrew my submission after waiting about three months)

Submission withdrawn by author

Changes requested:
The changes were generally minor and related to characterization. My agent didn't get very specific (she let me figure out how to fix things) but said the motivations of certain characters needed to be clarified.
How did you feel?
I was overall okay with the requested changes, though more so after they were done than before/during the edits. I wasn't as certain at first but am happy with the end product.
Time from request to re-submission:There were a few rounds of edits, then an email snafu, so it was about a year between the initial R&R request and the offer of representation. Each round of edits, though, probably took me two to four weeks.
Time from re-submission to response:She was pretty quick (as far as agents go!), aside from the aforesaid email snafu (which caused a delay of a few months). Other times, though, she turned drafts around in less than a week.

Outcome: OFFER
Offer of representation (huzzah!).

Changes requested:
The requested changes were to put more focus on the relationship between two characters while cutting a particular use of narrative form used in the book (journal entries of the main character), and to consider eliminating the details of nerd comic book culture. So basically a refocus of the book and elimination of a key character detail.

How did you feel?
My first reaction was that the agent didn't "get" the book because it required cutting a thematic character detail. But after a few days of sitting on it I realized the suggestions resonated and I could write a better book, refocusing that nerd detail into the manuscript in a different way.

Time from request to re-submission: 4 months
Time from re-submission to response: 2 months
Outcome: PASS
I got a "not for me" rejection on the revised manuscript. I can't say for sure if it contributed to the final no, but I knew I took a risk with not completely eliminating one detail of what the agent didn't like and trying to rework it a different way-a risk I took willingly because, well, it's the heart of the book to me and I know agents also like when you work with their advice and not simply follow it blindly. In the end, I have a much stronger book more in line with what I originally set out to write and it's still generating new requests.

Changes requested: Structural (changing a nonlinear timeline to a linear one)
How did you feel?:
Conflicted, but once I tried out the changes, I agreed that it was much clearer & smoother
Time from request to re-submission: 1 month
Time from re-submission to response: 2+ months
After two months, I nudged with an offer of rep from a different agent
Outcome: PASS/OFFER from another agent
While the initial agent ended up passing, the new version did result in an offer of rep from another agent

1 comment:

Shanika L. Bynum said...

Thanks to the writers who shared their experiences, I always wanted to know how the process worked!