The Revision Decision
Guest Blogger: Keli Gwyn
Many of us expect that one day we’ll receive edits on our manuscript from an editor at our publishing house, but the idea of getting edits from our agent can come as a shock. It brings up a lot of questions in a new writer’s mind. When I received my first-ever set of revision notes from my agent, these are the questions I asked myself.
Did my agent have the right to request revisions?
Technically, an agent is employed by an author. They agree to represent us, but they’re selling a product—our work. However, they put their reputation on the line along with ours each time they send out a submission. Therefore, I believe they have the right to request revisions and so I accepted this part of the process.
Did I want to work with an agent who offered editorial advice?
Since I was an assistant editor in the days before Richard Gere went gray, I’d seen firsthand how much help a knowledgeable editor could be. Therefore, I welcomed the input of an agent with editorial expertise.
Was my agent qualified to offer editorial advice?
Not all agents have the same strengths. Some are knowledgeable about marketing. Others who worked as editors have the experience necessary to offer editorial assistance. I did my research and knew my agent was a former editor who’d worked with some big name authors.
Did I trust the advice of my agent?
So, my agent has excellent credentials and an impressive track record. But did her suggestions make sense? Did I feel she got me as a writer? Or did I think she was out to lunch? It took me awhile to figure out my answer to this one. First I had to answer the next question:
Was I willing to act upon my agent’s advice?
When I received my revision notes, I was in for a shock. Three-quarters of my story stunk. Not that my considerate agent said it in those words. Hers were far more tactful – she loved my writing and she could see the story in there, but I’d have to work hard to bring it out. The ugly truth was that I’d released the story’s tension at the one-quarter mark, and the only real fix was to delete and rewrite 86,000 words. (Can you say too much of a bad thing?)
At this point, I faced a tough decision. Was I willing to rethink the majority of my story?
My Revision Decision
My agent, while compassionate, was also candid. She told me the story wouldn’t sell the way it was, because even though it was technically well written, structurally it didn’t work. At some level, I knew she was right.
Since I have an aversion to rejections—and since I have a strong desire not to let down the awesome agent who took a chance on me—I told her I’d pitch the pathetic prose and willingly work on my rewrite. OK, I didn’t say it as eloquently or with alliteration. In truth, I choked out the words. But I meant them.
I spent much of this past year in Revision Land and produced the best story possible as a direct result of my agent’s input. She was pleased with the revised version and sent the story out on submission. At the time I knew that whether or not it sold, we’d forged a successful partnership. I’ve learned I can trust my agent, and if she says, “Revise,” I’ll say, “I’m on it.”
I wanna know . . .
How would you answer the questions I posed above?
What would you do if an agent said you needed to perform a major rewrite?
Do you think I was all wet to spend months on my rewrite with no guarantee of a contract?
Keli Gwyn recently signed a publishing contract with Barbour for that very same novel she just finished revising. Keli writes what she loves to read: sweet inspirational historical romances with happy endings. Her award-winning stories are set in the heart of California’s Gold Country where she lives. She blogged about the experience of getting accepted by a publisher HERE.