Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Mixed Bag: Question about Revisions

All I have to say is TGIFF. That extra F stands for something. I'll let you interpret it as you wish. This has been a long week, no? But I'm looking forward to a full and fun weekend so it's all good.

I actually have a question today. It was posted in the comments section and I thought today would be a great day to bring it over and give it an answer. Mr. Winch asks (after buttering me up with compliments, which, as most of you know, is the best way, other than offering me food, to get anything from me,

I wondered if Chris (your agent) had any major problems with the story when you were signed. Nothing mechanically or grammatically, more in the likes of the story itself. Were there any parts where, although he loved your story, he said, "Chop the fat here" or "what in the world is this semantic slop here"? I wonder because I wonder if agents focus on the big picture (your kick-ass story) and overlook things that might be problems (plot-wise).
This is a really good question and the answer is yes. Okay, see you next week.

Oh, more. Right. One of the things Chris and the other agents (and editors) who read The Deathay Letter loved was the voice. But Chris had some issues with some of the places I'd chosen to go. There was a particular scene he felt bordered on making my character unlikable. And I'd managed to completely botch the ending in terms of tense. I'd prefer not say how because I don't want to spoil the book.

The point is that yes, there were some things that Chris had issues with plot-wise. And before he even signed me he asked me if I'd be willing to do some work on my book. Some agents will ask you to do the work before signing you. Chris did not in my case, but he has in others.

If I can get to the heart of what I think you're asking, I think some agents (and this applies to editors too) can and do look at the big picture and maybe see the potential of a project. If they're more hands-on (like Chris) or have more time, or just really believe in the project, they might ask for revisions to see how you tackle them. To see if you're capable of revising. Because you're going to spend more time revising than you did actually writing the book.

My editor at Simon Pulse asked me for revisions prior to buying the book. She had specific changes in mind, changes that completely changed the focus of the book. The core remained the same, but the focus is different. I think my willingness to revise and work on my book is what helped.

I think I've rambled a bit here so let me distill this as best as I can: Write the absolute best book you can. Don't submit it until you believe that there's nothing you can't make better about it. If you think there are plot inconsistencies or "fat" in your book, fix the inconsistencies and cut the fat. Don't expect an agent to do what you should have done. But be willing to work with an agent and revise. Take their suggestions and make them your own. Do your best and then do a little bit more.

I've often said on this blog that my agent's enthusiasm for my book is a huge reason I am where I am. It only takes one person to champion your work and help you get to that next level. With two full request out there, Mr. Winch, it sounds like you're well on your way. Congrats and thanks for the question :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Shaun. You answered my question in great detail. I always wondered about the revision process with agents and editors. I am a revision freak, stress the freak, and have applied my OCD-ADHD to revising and polishing my book. With my obsession for making things perfect, I just wondered if agents were able to overlook certain minor holes that they don't like and see the big picture...and the promise. Butter-free, I am looking forward to reading your book when it comes out. I'll let you know when I get word about my two fulls. It is damn tough waiting and every second that goes by makes me worry that my sh*t stinks...I mean, my sh*t don't stink! Does it? We'll see. Thanks again.


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