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Rewriting My Story: Five Months into My Revise & Resubmit
From 7 Manuscript Requests to 3 R&Rs...alas, it's time to cut 25,000 words! (25% of my manuscript)
Slow & Steady. Revise & Resubmit.
You haven’t heard from me in a while. Ten months to be exact. And that’s because I kept waiting for good news. Not COVID, not rejections, I wanted to tell you I'd signed with an agent. So I waited, and waited, and here we are.
I still don’t have an agent, but I’ve made some exciting progress. And I think it’s okay to celebrate that, too.
In this newsletter:
🌊 Revise & Resubmit
🌊 Wait, You Have a Second Book?
Revise & Resubmit
Last fall, I sent my pitch and first chapter for May It Please the Sea to many, many agents. (the newsletter link details the early stages of my querying process).
I got 7 requests to see the manuscript (big deal!! Agents typically request the full manuscript for ~1% of the pitches they receive) and I bit off all my fingernails as I waited for the possibility of an offer.
I didn’t get one. Instead, I got 3 R&Rs. “Revise and Resubmit”. Not an offer, but not a rejection. As the name suggests, it means the agent likes your work enough to take the time to suggest feedback (Revise) and would consider it again once it’s been fixed (Resubmit), but they don't like it enough to take it on as-is. It needs too much work. Especially in today’s overworked and understaffed publishing industry, R&Rs are a good filtering mechanism. Can you handle feedback? Can you tackle a meaty revision?
I thought I’d be sad as I read my first R&R email in mid-February, realizing it wasn’t an offer. But the agent's feedback was so spot-on, I was nodding along and mumbling “dangit, she’s right.” In that moment, I knew I wouldn't get an offer from any of those other agents still reading. It wasn’t pessimism, it was fact. My book wasn’t good enough yet. But her feedback inspired me.
"I don’t take the time to write notes when I’m not head-over-heels for the writing and see potential, so I hope you’ll be motivated and excited by these thoughts and not too overwhelmed." - Agent X
I forwarded the email to all my family members so we could dissect every word, then sat in a chair and stared at the wall and accepted the truth. To do this right, I have to rewrite this entire book. Yikes. Couple that with the fact that an R&R does not guarantee an offer...I could go through the whole process and still end up with a rejected manuscript!
But when I followed up with the agent to clarify that she actually truly meant it when she said she wanted me to cut 25,000 words (nearly 25% of my manuscript!!), she said.....
"If I see that there is more structure, heart, clarity on these notes, I can easily take you on and we can do a final revision before submission if it needs it."
Decision made. Goodbye, shiny new book idea I had started outlining. Hello, story I'm sick of. We meet again.
Here's a quick look into my Writing Life since then:
In March & April, I re-outlined the new shorter plot. This consisted of scribbling on paper, flipping through craft books, and What-If-ing up a storm.
In May, I wrote and re-wrote my Act 1. The world and plot twists stayed mostly the same, but everything changed just enough that I decided to write this new draft from scratch. (And change it to present tense, too!)
In June, I speed-drafted the entire manuscript based on my detailed outline. I got COVID during that time, but somehow still finished. (The writing might be terrible, but it's on the page).
Now, I'm revising! I'm ~35% done with revising. Once I'm happy with my latest batch of chapters (and I don't like to share my work until I've revised it multiple times), I send them to my Critique Partners. We have Zoom feedback sessions, and based on their feedback, I revise again (and again). Rinse and repeat until the full manuscript is done. Then, I'll send the whole thing to beta readers, so they can read in one-go. Wait a few weeks, bite off my nails, which will have just regrown, and based on reader feedback, I'll...get ready for it...revise again (and again). After banging my head against a wall a few more times, I'll send it to agents!
I use Asana's calendar feature to color-code my writing-specific deadlines (revise, upload, marketing, meetings) and estimate a deadline
I aim to submit by end of September. Maybe this R&R will go nowhere, and maybe I'll be embarrassed I shared this news with y'all, only to tell you later, "after all of that, it didn't work out." But this is what I'm up to. And even if this book doesn't get picked up, I'm becoming a stronger writer through the process.
Wait, You have a 2nd Book?
Outlined but not drafted. I started Moonshot while I was querying May It Please the Sea, so it's sitting there waiting for me to return to. I mentioned it at a virtual conference while pitching my other book, and agents were excited by it! Here's the pitch:
SQUID GAME meets DON'T LOOK UP (the movie)
In a climate-devastated Florida, a deepsea oil rig welder hacks her way into the Lottery to win a spot on the Moon, only to discover it's a competition with deadly consequences
I created the pitch for Moonshot before writing it, so it's snappier than May It Please the Sea's. (Learn from my mistakes-- pitch is everything!)
MAY IT PLEASE THE SEA
WATER WORLD meets RED RISING
When her island floods, a talented spearfisher seeks the sea gods to save her people, only to discover an undersea station of scientists who demand she must win a hunting competition and defeat their enemy in order to earn their help
The beginnings of a third book are marinating in the back of my mind, but for now I must retreat into my revising cave! Just kidding, it's Saturday, so we are going to organize the garage. Very exciting stuff.
🌊 Enjoy your summer, and let me know what you've been up to! 🌊