Endless Edits

23 Writing Conferences in November 2018

25 Writing Contests in October 2018 - No entry fees

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Rick Hall

Basic
Sep 9, 2018
Florida, US
I've seen lots of advice that claims you shouldn't submit a manuscript until you've polished it to the point that you can think of no way to improve it. That has proven to be a high standard for me. There's ALWAYS something that can be improved. I'm reasonably sure I could continue editing my current manuscript for the rest of my life, and it would probably continue to experience incremental improvement the entire time.

After working with an editor for about six months, I gave the query process a shot. Of course, they provide zero feedback when they reject you, so you can't know if it's the query letter, the subject matter, the writing, or just the stomach acid of the agent.

Next, I worked with several friends who had experience with query letters. Then I tried again, with the same uninformative rejections.

Under the assumption that it's probably the writing style itself, I've gone back to the editing stage. I'm pretty sure this cycle will repeat itself indefinitely, and at some point I'll throw my hands in the air and self-publish, just so I can move on to one of the ten million new stories in my head.

I'm curious to hear if anyone has a more intelligent approach, since mine is admittedly bad.
 
Have you had critiques from other writers? If not, it could give you a broad range of feedback to consider. And while everyone has different tastes and will highlight different things, if several people all highlight the same thing, then you'll know there's something there that you need to address.

It could also be a case of what the market is doing and what publishers/agents are looking for.
 
Start writing that next story now. Ignore the old one for a month or six. Use what you've learned in editing the first one to make the second one better from the first draft. You may find you come back to Novel 1 with fresh eyes and can see exactly how to make it shine. Or you may find you look back at Novel 1 in six months and are embarrassed you ever thought it was a good idea, and decide to forge ahead with #2 instead. Either way you win.
 
I agree with Robinne's suggestion re putting it aside for a few months and returning with fresh eyes after writing something else. After doing that, if you still think it's good, you might want to spend some money getting professional (paid-for) feedback (don't know if the editor you worked with was a friend or someone more willing to give you the undiluted truth?)
 
I too agree with the advice to set your work aside for a few months, which can feel a bit like being unfaithful to your manuscript or even giving up, but hindsight offers clarity of vision. Without knowing it, you've learned useful techniques from writing the first book, which will make creating Book 2 pleasurable.

As for attempting to decide what's unappealing about your story, that's a sure route to madness! No one knows what will work—until it does! He's been quoted several times on the Colony, but novelist and screenwriter William Goldman's observation remains true:

“Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and if you're lucky, an educated one.”

One of the unknowable things about querying, is who's actually assessed your submission. If you're wise, you addressed it to a specific agent, after researching what genre they specialise in, but I've had replies signed by someone whose name doesn't even appear on the agency website. They could have been a fresh employee, a lowly assistant—or even an unpaid intern—instructed to clear the agent's inbox.

To increase your chances of getting anywhere, become a cyber stalker of whichever agents you like the look of. Have a look at their social media posts, find out if they run a blog, see if they're on Manuscript Wish List. Whatever their profile on the agency website says, it's likely to be out of date, so attempt to glean what they think will be commercial at the moment from these recent sources of information. I warn you, it means wading through lots of twaddle about their favourite cakes, cocktails, pictures of their pussy cats and lapdogs + selfies of the agent themselves looking tiddly at some book launch!

Rejection feels like eating a diet of worms, but it's really fuel for returning to the fray.

Actually, I'm so used to eating worm sandwiches, after almost 500 rejections, that I'd look askance at an email from a literary agent showing interest in my work! :eek:
 
To respond to several of the questions, yep I worked with professional editing. One was a content editor, and one was a line editor. Both of them were paid, rather than friends. Both said "this is ready for querying." I've also gotten feedback from about 30 beta readers although many of them were friends, so that doesn't carry much weight with me. LOL. I even sat on it for 3 months before returning to it.

It's odd, because as a video game developer, I didn't have this problem. Perhaps it's a matter of experience equaling confidence.
 
Maybe give the Pop- Ups a go. If it's the letter, concept, blurb or intro you'll get a sense of the 'readership/market' take on it, rather than a professional editing take that says it's good to go. The first 700 words submitted for feedback on the Pop-Ups here - that's a tough test.
Friendly though. We've all been there. We're mostly there ourselves, right now...editing and querying.
 
Maybe give the Pop- Ups a go. If it's the letter, concept, blurb or intro you'll get a sense of the 'readership/market' take on it, rather than a professional editing take that says it's good to go. The first 700 words submitted for feedback on the Pop-Ups here - that's a tough test.
Friendly though. We've all been there. We're mostly there ourselves, right now...editing and querying.
Technically, I did submit something just before I officially joined the site. LOL. But in my usual way of doing things, A few hours after hitting 'send', I watched the video of the August session, and it gave me some ideas, at which point I rewrote the opening couple of paragraphs. Now, of course, I'm wishing there was a way to edit the submission, since I like this new opening much better. Isn't that the way life always works?
 
Bummer. Yes. Isn't that always the way? We've been recording readings of entries scheduled for 23 and 30 Sept...you can see the titles lined up for those dates if you browse in 'Pop-Up Perfomers'. See if yours is one of them. I don't think you'd be able to edit what you've subbed already but I could be wrong. One of the techie geniuses here might know differently. But you could message @AgentPete for when he returns from holiday soon, and explain and ask to withdraw it and re-submit. Chances are he'll see this anyway on his return.
 
I must agree with the others. I would give it a rest, a long rest while you continue to learn the skill. Read the Wiki and comments here and from other writing sources. You could also start a new project...experience improves skill and there are no limits to either.

Just an fyi - rejection - To be accepted in a submission, the agent requires a "slot". That means, they have enough time to accept (let's say) twelve novels a year. If they have fifteen in the stack, even if yours is good, it may be rejected. If the agent does not have experience promoting your genre, a reject is automatic. A query or synopsis or the first xxx pages may not be appetizing to the agent for any of a number of reasons, including acid reflex.
 
I must agree with the others. I would give it a rest, a long rest while you continue to learn the skill. Read the Wiki and comments here and from other writing sources. You could also start a new project...experience improves skill and there are no limits to either.

Just an fyi - rejection - To be accepted in a submission, the agent requires a "slot". That means, they have enough time to accept (let's say) twelve novels a year. If they have fifteen in the stack, even if yours is good, it may be rejected. If the agent does not have experience promoting your genre, a reject is automatic. A query or synopsis or the first xxx pages may not be appetizing to the agent for any of a number of reasons, including acid reflex.
Which make it even more frustrating. If it's broken, I'm happy to fix it. If it's acid reflux, I'm content to move on. With no feedback whatsoever, it's roughly like playing the lotto, which I find to be a waste of money. LOL
 
Yup. But, unfortunately, this whole business is somewhat similar to a lottery, in that it is at least partly a numbers game / luck-dependent. The good news is that you can improve your odds somewhat, IMHO, through doing the right things: write a lot, submit a lot, target your work to people most likely to be interested in it, etc. Learn how to do a submissions dance widdershins in a chalk circle each full moon. You know.
 
Yup. But, unfortunately, this whole business is somewhat similar to a lottery, in that it is at least partly a numbers game / luck-dependent. The good news is that you can improve your odds somewhat, IMHO, through doing the right things: write a lot, submit a lot, target your work to people most likely to be interested in it, etc. Learn how to do a submissions dance widdershins in a chalk circle each full moon. You know.
Lol. Sounds a bit like one of my characters at the end there
 
I've finally managed to catch up properly on this thread, and I can't think of anything better to say than this...
Start writing that next story now.
...except perhaps for this...
Learn how to do a submissions dance widdershins in a chalk circle each full moon. You know.
:)

The only thing I would add is that whatever you do make sure that book two isn't a sequel to book one. It's a huge waste of time and energy to seriously invest in the same thing before you've sold the first part. You want breadth as well as depth. (This isn't original advice, I hasten to add – and as always, the widdershins dance might be more successful – but it is advice I've heard from published authors. Do with it what thou will. :))
 
The only thing I would add is that whatever you do make sure that book two isn't a sequel to book one. It's a huge waste of time and energy to seriously invest in the same thing before you've sold the first part. You want breadth as well as depth.
Yeah, in that respect it's not much different from video games, where we'd wait for the sales figures in the first 90 days after release before making a decision on a sequel. I suppose the big difference is that in video games, we finish the game and then it's on the shelves within 30 days. A friend of mine finished his book, and it took two YEARS to get on the shelves.
 
cartoon-publishing.jpg

It's a horrible notion, but try looking at things from a literary agent's viewpoint. Imagine you're attempting to anticipate what plot will sell as a commercial product in a minimum of one year from now, which is a typical delay between having your manuscript accepted and it passing through the various processes to get it reader ready.

What do you think would appeal to readers? I'd guess, based on recent publishing trends, that there'll be plenty of novels about refugees, immigrants and sexual discrimination. No doubt, there'll be lots of thrillers featuring an out-of-control American President. Maybe even some fantasy and sci-fi adventures where a predatory orange monster with vestigial fur and small grasping hands runs rampant!

Trying to keep my commercial hat atop my bonce, as I return to selling myself and my books, I've been examining books borrowed from the library to work out what the thinking was by the publisher in deciding that this would sell. It's really looking down the wrong end of the telescope, but is easier to do with a debut novel by an unknown author. One trick that helps, is to consider the 'tags' that Amazon and Smashwords use to describe the main elements of your story. These tags are keywords that search engine bots pick out to show a reader a book likely to be of interest. It's a shorthand way of summing up your lovingly created novel, but I've sometimes found that I was writing about issues I hadn't intended.

My current WIP would have tags of Murder, Art Forgery, Mafia, Creativity, Love, Sex, Autopsy, Identity Theft, Prostitution & Cat Burglar.

In planning a plot, you could look at contemporary issues and add things such as Deportation, Gender Reassignment, Gun Control. They needn't be a major part of your story, but they are hot as tags.

The business of writing is making me cynical....:confused:
 
Yes, Keywords and leveraging SEO is a way to go about it, but unless you're a really fast writer, then trying to chase trends is nearly impossible. They're so transitory, here and gone in a few months, that their usefulness is a tough proposition. Similarly, chasing books that are currently hot seems tough. One thing we used to do in video games is to keep our eyes on Hollywood and Netflix projects that hadn't yet been released. Instead of waiting until after a trend is established, and then chasing it into the sea of wannabes, if you can head off the trend in its infancy, you improve your odds. Hollywood and Netflix have been known to leak rumors of what they're up to a year in advance. If you have a handful of those projects to consider, and you know who's directing and starring, you can sometimes anticipate a trend before it happens. That gives you more time to jump in before the crowd. True, it's not as accurate as waiting until something is wildly popular, but it has the advantage of letting you take a decent shot at getting ahead of the curve
 
Which make it even more frustrating. If it's broken, I'm happy to fix it. If it's acid reflux, I'm content to move on. With no feedback whatsoever, it's roughly like playing the lotto, which I find to be a waste of money. LOL

Rick - maddening, isn't it? The silences, the not knowing, it could drive you crazy. There was a thread on here a while ago about query letters (can't just put my finger on it right now) which you might find enlightening (and terrifying). By all accounts, many agents will read your query letter for about eight seconds - long enough to read two reasonably sized sentences - and will only keep going if they are totally grabbed in those first moments. So the chances are that many agents never got as far as reading a single word of your book. The trick is to make your letter are enthralling and immersive as your novel - not easy, but possible.

I'm in a similar position to you - first novel finished and well-liked by 30+ readers, a couple of whom are published authors (in any case, I wouldn't dismiss your friends liking your book - if the also represent the demographic you are aiming at, then that means there at least some customers out there for your work). I think there has to be a moment when you stop trying to endlessly (re) polish it, particularly if you are confident that the first couple of chapters are suitably sparkly. If you can at least make your query letter exciting enough to get some agents to actually look at your writing, then you have a chance, and if nothing still comes back then console yourself - as we all do, all the time - that your book is obviously great, but just not commercial enough for an agent to risk their time on.

What's your book about?
 
Andrew - YA Urban Fantasy, although given the loose definitions of these things, some might want to call it a YA SciFi Thriller. It's about a 17-year-old parkour enthusiast who has a sentient virus living in her brain. The virus has the personality of a 10-year old boy named Alexander, and he's telepathic.
 
Personally, I have broken the rule of don't make Book 2 a sequel of Book 1 until you've sold it.

But that's because a) I enjoy the world I'm writing and want to carry on enjoying it and b) I have every intention of self-publishing if no one in the traditional industry is willing to take me on and c) my numerous Book 1 beta readers all badgered me for more, so I feel there is a demand out there, even if the industry itself hasn't caught on to it yet.

So, to sum up, if you're enjoying writing a series, carry on with it. :)
 
Personally, I have broken the rule of don't make Book 2 a sequel of Book 1 until you've sold it.
Yeah, while I see the logic in not starting book 2, something did give me pause. In the event that your Book 1 is successful, if you wait until the sales figures verify that, you'll be much delayed in putting out the sequel. And unless you're Patrick Rothfuss, people might not be willing to wait years for the second book.
 
Yeah, that's also sound logic. Maybe the best thing is to write what makes you happy. Trite advice, but true?

And unless you're Patrick Rothfuss, people might not be willing to wait years for the second book.
I must admit, even as a massive fan, I've given up on him finishing book three. Almost. Ever the optimist.
 
Yeah, that's also sound logic. Maybe the best thing is to write what makes you happy. Trite advice, but true?


I must admit, even as a massive fan, I've given up on him finishing book three. Almost. Ever the optimist.

The guy can manage to write a ten page scene of a character playing the lute, and somehow make it exciting. You get to the end of the scene and you say "Nothing happened, but I don't care. That was one exciting lute song." But making us wait 7 years for the final book, and still no release date... I could be on social security before he finishes it.
 
The guy can manage to write a ten page scene of a character playing the lute, and somehow make it exciting. You get to the end of the scene and you say "Nothing happened, but I don't care. That was one exciting lute song." But making us wait 7 years for the final book, and still no release date... I could be on social security before he finishes it.

I am not convinced he's going to be able to tie up all those loose ends in one book. But if he has to write a fourth/split the third into two parts, I will not mind at all. Give us a great story, and I'll forgive the wait.
 
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23 Writing Conferences in November 2018

25 Writing Contests in October 2018 - No entry fees

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