Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Query Question: How to requery

I received the following feed back from an agent:
Thank you for your query of (title).  Although your story is intriguing, it needs another level of line editing. If you agree and complete the edits, feel free to re-query this project.
Since it would have been dumb of me to not take this advice to heart, I immediately began editing. It's been 6 weeks, I've eliminated about 3000 words (I'm not going to lie, a large number of them were 'that'!) and am ready to re-query.
My question is, how do I go about this? Do I just send the query again with my edited material in place of the original? Do I tell the agent it's a re-submission? If so, in the body of the e-mail or the subject line? Also, do I need to rework my query letter itself or do I leave it as is?
All of my responses so far have been of the 'thanks, but no thanks' variety, so I'm kind of flying blind here. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

I can see why you jumped on this with all four feet.  It must have felt like finding a storm celler in a tornado to get that reply.

I've sent replies like that VERY infrequently.  The number one thing that messes up your second chance? Replying too soon.

Six weeks is BARELY enough time.  Another line edit doesn't mean just paring out those extra words, but that's a good start.

It means letting the manuscript sit for a month. (I can hear you wailing from here when I say that) THEN going back and reading it out loud, very slowly and making sure every single word is the right word and in the right place.

Once you've done that, you're ready to requery.

Here's how you do that:

Subject line: requery per your email of (date agent replied to you)

Dear Agent Stormy Celler:

Thanks for offering me the chance to requery after a line edit for my novel TORNADO TANGO. I've completed the line edit.  Here's the original query with the revised pages.


FIRST 3-5 REVISED pages (or whatever Agent Storym Celler) asks for.

Please please please do not let impatience get the better of you.  It's the number two query killer.  The first is plain bad writing so you're ahead of the crowd. Don't blow your chance here. 


Lisa Bodenheim said...

How wonderful for the OP to receive a chance to re-query! I'd be all over this too!

So now I'm looking up line editing to understand what it involves. More than JUST syntax or the Chicago Manual of Style. It's also about flow and tone, the way language is used. Is the story as clear, crisp, compelling as it can be.

I would assume crit partners COULD be helpful in this. Hiring an editor for the first 50 pages might point out weak spots for the author to look for in the rest of their manuscript. And as Janet wrote, setting it aside for awhile and then reading it out loud.

For now, it's time for the OP to focus on their next project. That will help him/her get over that hump of the impatience to re-query and allow the manuscript to rest.

Hm...much like making bread.

Ardenwolfe said...

I had a similar experience. I can tell you Janet's advice is sound. I spent almost an entire year revising and editing. So much so, I thought the agency forgot about me.

Maybe they did, but the reminder with the original email helped. ;)

Again, publishing is as slow as Christmas with the elves on strike. Better buck up for the long haul if you want this life.

Anonymous said...

I am chuckling at this. I have some experience here. I had similar advice recently.

I thought, "I can't do this."

I let it sit and worked on a new project. One of my partners went through it again with the agent's advice in mind and sent back some notes.

I started back in and have cut 5,000 words from the first 200 pages and I am not a flowery writer. It's cutting out redundancies, unnecessary dialogue tags, rearranging sentences to make it sharper.

I've found some places I'd also like to add more description, but for the most part it's better writing and it was good advice whether the agent takes it or not. It's advice I'll be keeping in mind as I write from now on.

LynnRodz said...

Oh, that four letter word! That word that doesn't need to be there, that word that raises your word count, etc. Yes, I'm talking about that word 'that'. But! That's not all. That's not the only four letter word that you need to weed out. There are words like: like, just, then, when, etc., but you know all that.

So, (another word to weed) after all that, like Janet said, you need that word patience.

Congrats on getting a bite!

Unknown said...

How I wish I were wise enough to remember this advice. Wait! Don't send it. Get it right.

Another way to do a line by line, word by word audit/edit is to get your kids (or whomever else you can properly bribe) to read it back to you. And if you can get someone else to listen in at the same time, even better.

If you can't get someone to read it to you I have found that starting from the end of a chapter and reading sentences up works fairly well at finding awkward grammar, dumb mistakes and extra/missing words.

Also, you might consider getting a fresh beta reader or cp. After reading the same manuscript over and over your cp's probably love and are invested in your book nearly as much as you are.

Anonymous said...

I can definitely hear people yowling about the "let it sit" advice. Some other writers were asking what do they do now that they have finished their masterpiece?

Veteran Warhorse Writers: Let it sit for a month or six months and come back at it with fresh eyes.

Prancing Young Writer: A month! Six months!! It took me six months to write it!!! I might lose interest in it in a month!!!! I might drop dead in six months!!!!!

VWWW: Someone take those exclamation points away from him before he hurts someone. Let it be. Then print it off in different font than you're used to seeing and read it aloud. When you force your eye to slow down, you see things that are actually there instead of what you thought was there. Your ear picks up on the rhythm of the language, like a song. Your writing has its own rhythm; learn to listen for it.

PYW: Oh, I could never do that. I hate the sound of my voice.

A week later:

PYW: I took your advice. It's so much better now. How many agents should I query at first?

VWW: Forget querying. You've conquered time if you can do all it all that quickly. The world is your oyster.

I've discovered writing is done one word at a time. So it goes with editing. Each word must be picked up and examined carefully as an archaeologist might a shard of pottery to see that it is the right one in the right place.

"This book began magnificently, went on very well for a long way with great stretches of great brilliance and then went on endlessly in repetitions that a more conscientious and less lazy writer would have put in the waste basket." Ernest Hemingway

Colin Smith said...

I feel Opie's pain here. Patience can be so hard to cultivate when a) you're excited about your story, b) you KNOW this story is THE ONE that will launch your writing career, and c) you KNOW every agent on the planet will be hollering for fulls. But the advice is sound, as anyone who's been writing for a while knows. Let it sit. Do something else. Forget about it for a month, a few months--however long it takes for you to go back to it with complete objectivity. Ideally you want to be able to read your ms as if you were beta reading for someone else. You can't do that after a week.

All the best to you, Opie! :D

Unknown said...

Julie hit on something with PYW's fear of losing interest.

I get this. It's frightening to consider losing interest in something you've spent years on. But there might be a more uncomfortable truth at the core of this angst: you won't lose interest, but because time and fresh eyes WILL make the flaws stand out, you WILL have to attack it anew. Because nobody else will see the A of it if you settled for a B-

We all know what that means: a lotta lotta reading to your writer-cat.

Kate42 said...

May I ask you all a question? When you are doing this, do you have paper pages, or do you line edit on screen? thanks

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congrats to OP for the interest. So many people have told me to not rush.

To answer Kate42's question. I'm not as experienced as others here but will share my method. The best thing I did for revising was print out my ms on paper. Then I went through it, listed every scene. Not the chapters but every scene. I Waited a month then started rewriting. Line edits will come later but I'll probably use the same method.

Listing every scene made me aware of lots of problems like repetition and relevency, word choice. It's easier to break in pieces and move things around, make sure every scene has a sequel and leads to the next scene. It takes time and concentration.

Colin Smith said...

Kate42: I tend to edit on-screen, and keep each iteration of the novel. For example, the first draft is version 1.0. Subsequent edits on the first draft will be 1.1, 1.2, etc. When it goes to my first readers, that's version 2.0. Their changes will be version 2.1, and any further changes I make will be 2.2, 2.3, etc. The version for beta readers is version 3.0. This way I can keep track of changes, and at any time I can go back to a previous version if the novel starts veering off in a direction I end up not liking. There is value to editing on paper, and I might consider doing that for sections of the novel if I'm having a difficult time seeing a problem and need a different perspective. But ultimately, all the changes will go on the PC.

Dena Pawling said...

I let my first manuscript sit six months while I wrote another one. Then I came back to this one and rewrote, tweaked, etc. Sent it to three CPs AND a freelance editor. Made more changes. Let it sit another two months. Made more changes. Started querying but still felt my first chapter started too slowly.

Found three more CPs who are crazy enough to want to read my stuff. All of these lovely CPs are awesome, and one is a CUT IT TIL IT BLEEDS kind of writer. Now I don't cut quite as many words as this person does, probably because I don't write as well, but the three of them make me stare at pretty much EVERY SINGLE WORD [yes, I should only use EVERY because EVERY SINGLE is redundant, or maybe delete both and use EACH, or as my legal mind wants to write, EACH AND EVERY, which I then cut and type ONE WORD AT A TIME, then cut that and type WORD BY WORD, which still sounds bloated so I bag the whole thing and change it to EACH, then I change the font and read again, then read it into a tape recorder and play it back, then print and read paper, rinse and repeat ad nauseum].

And this is AFTER a freelance editor went thru the manuscript.

I hate line editing. No wonder writers [and lawyers] tend to drink.

Let it sit. Find new eyes. Then scrutinize EACH AND EVERY SINGLE ONE WORD BY WORD AT A TIME.

Or as I wrote in the last line of my flash fiction entry, “I'll never reach The End, oh WTF!”

Elissa M said...


Different strokes for different folks. Some can only edit on hard copy. Some prefer the computer. Some do both (editing is never a one-and-done process).

OP, as Janet and everyone else has said, you HAVE to let that baby sit. I think a month isn't long enough. Eight weeks is minimum in my mind. While it's sitting, of course get started on (or continue with) the next project. Even more importantly, read published books, especially popular and award-winning titles. Read widely in your genre, but also read outside your "comfort zone".

Musicians train their ear to hear proper pitch, recognize chord progressions, etc. My husband quit the less-than-professional community band I play in because he IS a professional, and the sounds were destroying his ear. In addition to practicing (daily) he has to play with fellow professionals just to keep his ear attuned. He also constantly listens to recordings of accomplished instrumentalists (sometimes playing along with them) so his own improvisation doesn't get stale. (He's primarily a jazz/blues musician, but he also plays "legit" music.)

Writers have to read writing by other professional writers to keep their ear for language and great writing attuned. Once you're intimately reacquainted with what professional writing sounds like (and have let your own work sit long enough that it looks like a stranger's work and not your own), you'll be ready to go back and edit.

Donnaeve said...

Kate42, I first make changes such as removing "that" etc. on the screen. But when I want to get a VERY DIFFERENT perspective, and when I want to simply sit, read out loud and make notes? I print it out. It's invaluable to do this. It's like looking at a completely different book, which is hard to believe b/c you've only been staring at it for like, YEARS, right?

But. It will show you all the mistakes you've missed.

Otherwise to the OP, what great news! Good luck as you let it simmer on the back burner, and when you come back to it, you'll be ready.

In general, I think this also shows how "clean" mss must be before an agent will request a partial or full.

Unknown said...

I think Kate42's question is interesting. I've been amazed at how my writing looks in my hands, vs on the screen. Dialog, especially, blends in with text more naturally on the screen to my eye, but can look like a screenplay when it's in my hands.

Unknown said...

I am a big fan of the Slash and Burn approach, but for me, rhythm trumps all.

"EVERY SINGLE WORD" is technically redundant, but the rhythm pounds the meaning into you One. Syllable. At a. Time.

So there's my editing dance: strip it all down to the essentials, then add the music back in.

Dena Pawling said...

One caveat about reading well-known authors - don't exclusively read their newer stuff. Yes, authors get better over time, but they can also get lazy [not always, but sometimes]. As it has been said, Stephen King [and others like him] can write whatever they want. I'm going back and listening to audio books of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, and after the first several books, it's hard for me to listen without thinking "she could have cut that dialogue tag." In some respects, I can't read a book for pleasure any more.

Just remember, not even multi-award-winning authors are perfect. But it does give you a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

Nice, OP! That's a great result from a query! Definitely agree with Janet: letting an MS sit is one of the best tools at a writer's disposal. I'm currently letting one of my MSs sit before editing the heck out of it: I do it with each MS I finish. I guarantee you'll be surprised at the amount of paragraphs you read and think "What on earth was I thinking?! There are twenty redundancies in this paragraph alone!"

Good luck and congrats!

Unknown said...

Congrats, Opie! Patience. Deep breaths, and strive for perfection per page.

Katie42, I attempt to make it as clean as I can on screen before I print it off. I tried printing the first book off before the first rewrite and I made so many changes the pages were hard to understand what went where. Arrows and additions and exclamation marks all over the place. Frustrated and slowed me down.

Now I make it as clean and correct as I can before I print it off and then dissect.

Matt Adams said...

@Kate -- I do my first edits on screen, but I never think it's done without a pencil and paper edit. 12 point Courier, double spaced.

Then I print it again and read it backwards sentence by sentence.

Congrats, Opie. That's not a foot in the door, but maybe it's a toe. Good luck, take your time and trust your instincts at the end.

Unknown said...

Gah, I meant to say this before: good luck OP! We're rooting for you.

Colin Smith said...

Darn, Kelsey beat me to it! I was also going to point out that while "every single word" is technically redundant, it is rhythmicly powerful, and the redundancy adds to the weight of the phrase. "Every single word" matches the tone and intention of the author in a way that "every word" doesn't. That's why we use this redundancy in common speech. And this is why good writing is far more than getting technical details correct. It's an art, and sometimes coloring outside the lines works. :)

And I would agree with Dena's caution about reading famous and prolific authors' latter works. I would tend to fault the editors allowing their cash cows to get away with more--perhaps out of fear of bruising egos, or out of a rush to get the new book published, I don't know. But I have certainly read books by very famous, highly acclaimed authors that really could have used more line editing.

Eileen said...

I agree that waiting is key. While waiting, you can still be working. Start, brainstorm, dream about, or research your next project. Feed your soul with art: museums, concerts, sunrises, a pottery class. I love Elisa M.’s advice about reading great books in order to keep your ear for language in tune. You can also read books on revision/writing. On Writing by Stephen King. Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. I’m sure the good folks here will have other suggestions. The point is that waiting is not wasting time.

As for Kate42’s question. I edit on-screen until I feel like everything is polished and perfect. Then, I print it out and take the pages to a brand new space to read again. I always find more ways to improve my “perfect” draft.

Megan V said...

I'm definitely on the PYW end of things: the anxiety, champing at the bit, dancing in place, waiting for the gate to swing, and desperate to get out before the axe can fall. Then I remember that the faster a writer runs, the harder it is for an agent to catch 'em. And why should they chase the too-fast PYW when the VWW is standing patiently nearby.

Take the extra time. It's worth it. Start on another project. Or (when you just can't possibly work on something else) read! Read the current arrivals in the same market as your manuscript. You may be surprised at what you find.

If you don't take the time, you might end up like that old guy in hunchback of notre dame (disney version) "I'm free I'm free!" *fals in stocks* Dang it!"

Dena Pawling said...

Yep to those of you who saw/heard the EVERY SINGLE WORD analogy. Perhaps it wasn't the best analogy. Which is why I always read my manuscript into a tape recorder and play it back, trying several word choice options if necessary. But, even a good thing can be too much. One instance of musical EVERY SINGLE WORD is okay. Lots of instances of redundancies is generally not.

Lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseum.

Unknown said...

Dena makes an interesting point about well-known authors.

Harlan Coben is one of my all time favourite authors but I recently read, or attempted to read, his second novel, MIRACLE CURE. Oh boy, it's bad. He actually apologizes for it in his opening notes. But everything he's done since then is spot on, and the fact that he flunked at this one kind of encourages me.

John Grisham, on the other hand, I've always admired until lately. He disappointed me with one of his latest books, GRAY MOUNTAIN. I won't even start on how bad it is. But I believe Dena hit it right on the head with Mr. Grisham...lazy book.

David Baldacci is another author who gets better over time. MEMORY MAN actually succeeded in making me forget about everything except what happened next. No internal editing, no doing the laundry. Just turning the page.

Mr. Baldacci, Mr. Coben, Mr. King. Setting my sights too high? Setting myself up for failing? Maybe. But aiming for mediocre seems silly.

LynnRodz said...

Kate42, like some others, I don't print out too soon. I prefer to edit on screen as much as possible before printing it out.

Dena, I have the same problem. I use to love to read, now I can't help but notice the writing. It's a pity really. I wonder if I'll ever be able to read for the pleasure again.

Elissa, jazz is legit music, there's nothing harder than improvising. I grew up as a classical musician, put a sheet of music in front of me and I could play it. I would have loved to have played jazz/blues, but the improvisation was just too hard for me.

Signed: Jacquette of all Trades

Colin Smith said...

Speaking of editing, I just have to share this quote from Diane's (DLM) blog post yesterday:

"There are many, many beautiful pieces of art and furniture and so on I admire and might even love to have, but not all the beauty in the world will actually fit inside my house."

I think that sums up "kill your darlings" wonderfully. :)

Karen McCoy said...

Lol, Lynn! Yep, THAT is one of my spam words too, along with JUST and VERY. I think Monty Python said it best here

Great question from OP--and shows that every situation is slightly different, every time.

And yes, patience. Lots of patience. Especially when things heat up.

Anonymous said...


It depends on what phase I'm in.

At some point, and more than once, I will copy it off and highlight for various parts such as dialogue, description, etc. Then lay several pages out on the floor and look for patterns. You can physically see where you have too much of something.

While I'm doing this, I often catch other things that need changing.

After the manuscript is highlighted, I can go through and focus solely on parts. Dialogue for instance.

When you look at the parts by themselves, you see more clearly what is actually on the page instead of what you think is there.

Put a one sentence description of each scene on a recipe card. Who is in it? What does it accomplish? I wish I had done this one sooner. I removed some scenes in a previous word slashing and then later scenes made no sense because the set up was gone.

You can shuffle scenes around if you need to easily this way. Set up a bulletin board/story board like movie directors do.

Thank QOTKU for this wonderful idea.

Liquid Story Binder is a word processing software for writers with a built in story board, gallery, music files etc.

When you've examined your story in sections: character arcs, dialogue, setting, conflict, etc., then print it off and start reading it aloud as if you were performing it.

Years ago my sister-in-law came to visit and asked my middle son, who reminded her greatly of Huckleberry Finn with his red hair and green eyes, to read to her. Cody was about seven at the time. He started reading in front of the fireplace and performing as he did so. Each word was expressively pronounced and acted out. The bear didn't growl, it gr-r-r-owwwlled.

Mary was rolling and asked him what he was doing.

"My teacher said we should read with color. I'm reading with color."

I think of that little freckle-faced boy and think, "His teacher was right. We should read with color."

As writers we owe it to our readers to give them every opportunity to do so.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” --Mark Twain

To the OP, congratulations! That is huge.

Kay Kauffman said...

I had a similar experience a few years ago. I finished the revision and was so tired of looking at my MS that I almost sent it off before giving it a final read-through. I didn't, though; I read through it one last time before sending it off, and I'm glad I did because I discovered that I'd duplicated two chapters. Waiting is a pain, but it's worth it every time.

And they ended up passing on the story. It's probably a good thing, because I'm still working on it and it's much better now than it was three years ago. Many problems my story had. Hopefully it has fewer of them now.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to add for the OP (for once, huh?). Janet's answer is perfect. Patience, OP, and good luck!

Kate42: I always print out my work at least once in it's life. Usually several times. It always seems easier to see flaws and rhythm problems reading it from paper.

I also usually write the first drafts long-hand, because it seems to help my creativity. Holding a pencil (pens work too, but pencils seem to work better) feels more like drawing/creating art, and it seems to trigger my brain to write more creatively.

I recently saw an article on a study which compared reading print versus digital, and it turns out that, when you're reading print, you're reading *deeper* than you are when you're reading off a lighted screen.

The study is probably not the end-all, be-all of reading studies, but it fits with what I know.

Colin: All changes will have to go onto the PC, anyway. :)

At various stages of the manuscript, I'll print it out, read it carefully, write out the edits on the printouts (or, if they're long, on a separate piece of paper), then transfer them to the electronic version. At the next such stage, I'll do the same thing. I must have hundreds of digital versions of the novel I've been working on most, all saved on my computer (and on various discs, drives, cards, clouds, etc.)

Dena: Sometimes redundancies serve to emphasize an idea, so when you say 'every single word', it emphasizes the care and diligence you're using. Of course, you need to do it sparingly for it to work. If you use redundancies a lot, then it weakens the device - and the writing.

(And, yes, I know others have spoken to this already, but I had this written out, and it still says what I want it to. Basically: Redundancy is a device. Use it sparingly, and it can do wonders.)

Colin Smith said...

bj: Actually, that's another reason why I do my editing on my computer--it all has to end up there anyway! :)

Anonymous said...

"Dear Agent Stormy Celler:"

This kind of makes me laugh since my two older boys had a big debate about using the name Stormie for their daughters. Cody offered to trade Brandon first rights to it for a $6,000 pickup.

Negotiations broke down when I said yes, I would be upset if Brandon killed Cody should he renege on the deal.

I suggested there was nothing wrong with two Stormie Weathers since they aren't even in the same states, but apparently there can be only one.

Donnaeve said...

While I agree with the "every single word" exercise, I also know if I concentrate too hard on writing to what I perceive as close to my sense of just right, it becomes stilted. It loses that "every single word" sense of rhythm and flow - which strikes me as providing us an example. We know we don't need "single" in there, but we all like it as proven by the comments above. It sounds better. IMO, sometimes using "that, like," or any other word THAT (wheeee!) is unnecessary enhances the flow/dialogue/voice/personality of the piece - or character.

2Ns - I remember reading that piece on Harley. Touched me again.

On to a sidebar, my email fiasco continues to frustrate me. Le sigh.

CAPTCHA understands. I got beverages.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OMG I just got home from work and you're already 36 comments in. I'm sure I have nothing of value to add but egads, if that happened to me I'd have to disable send or I'd shoot myself in the foot while it was strategically placed in my mouth.

DLM said...

Kelsey, LOVE what you said about rhythm trumps all. I am exactly the same way; for me, that is the core experience of reading out loud. I'll gut a sentence just to get it syncopated just right, to that subjective, emotional need for bumps and motion in a scene.

Colin, thank you so much for the shout-out! I'd blush, but who'd believe I'm humble ... ?

I cut Ax's first draft from something like 160-something K to 128K, and one agent said (oddly enough), it was too bare. I needed the food in the kitchen and (hee) the furniture in the rooms, so to speak. I think it ended its most recent run around 135K. By majority vote, my guess is most would say my decor is too busy - but then, the book's lying fallow, so (again/still) it doesn't have to please anyone but me. Onward with the WIP!

Kate Larkindale said...

I mainly edit in the computer, but I always do one pass at least on a printed document. And for my final pass, I send my MS to my Kindle and read it on there. I always catch a few things I want to change in that last pass because my MS then looks like some of the books I read on the bus and I notice spelling mistakes, typos, repeated words and other little niggly things far more on there for some reason...

Anonymous said...

RE the scene on a card. Janet advised Kari Lynn Dell how to do this. Kari showed me. Kari now has a lovely new book out THE LONG RIDE HOME, so it must work, no?

Sensory detail: (My thing. I like sensories.)
Note if it ties to something else:

Jenz said...

Kate42, good question! I teach graphics, and here's the trick for proofing and editing: look at it in a different format.

Onscreen, it's made up of light. Printed, it's solid paper and ink. If you save it as an epub and look at it on a tablet, the fonts and the line breaks change and it looks different again (personally I'm really fond of this one, but it may not be a simple option for a lot of people).

Which method you prefer is up to you, but it really does work to help you see the content in a different way.

Elissa M said...


As you said, "jazz is legit music, there's nothing harder than improvising. I grew up as a classical musician, put a sheet of music in front of me and I could play it. I would have loved to have played jazz/blues, but the improvisation was just too hard for me."

I can't improv, either. I wrote "legit" because that's what my husband and his jazz friends call it. Pretty sure their tongues are firmly in cheek when they say it.

Sam Hawke said...

Another useful thing I find at the line edit stage is to run a word frequency tool through the MS. You can download a variety of them online, but essentially they'll come back with a ranking of the frequency of your word use (on most of them you can exclude words like 'and' and 'the', etc). You'd be surprised at the results sometimes! Like, how the hell did I use 'feet' 400 times? 400 TIMES? Almost every page! Where are all these feet coming from and why do I apparently feel the need to keep the reader so well informed about them?

Good luck with the edits OP!

Anonymous said...

Holy cats I'm late to the game. Most of what I would say has been said already.

The only original thought I have to add (which really isn't original) is this -

Wait longer than you think you need to wait.

Janet keenly points out that you have a liferaft in the ocean. A good thing to do at that point is hang on tight and follow the carefully laid out instructions by those in the boat. They see all the things happening down there in the shark infested waters. The last thing you want to do when someone throws you a liferaft is kick and scream and yell "JEEZ GET ME OUT OF HERE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE HURRY HURRY HURRY DON'T YOU KNOW I CAN'T SWIM AND I'LL DIE IF I STAY OUT HERE TOO LONG!!!!"

Another great analogy I've heard is this:

I read a book on plane crash survivors. Statistically speaking, the first 3 minutes after a plane crashes are the most crucial moments of a survivors life. The actions taken during those first three minutes prove 95% of the time to result in their imminent doom or their survival. The reason for this is simple. When you survive a plane crash, the first thing that pops into your head, hanging upside down in the canopy of a rainforest, is to unbuckle yourself. This is bad. Another natural response is to pry loose of whatever position you are in and start running, expending lots of energy quickly and leaving yourself much more likely to die. A third example is eating something without knowing if it is safe. Lots of bad decisions can be made in the first three minutes, but professional survivalists tell you to do one thing immediately.

Hug a tree.

Just take a big breath and hug a tree until that three minutes pass. Because if you survive the first three minutes without doing something completely stupid, you are very likely to make it out of there alive.

You catch my drift, opie! :) Hug a tree, take a breath, slow it down. S/he likes your concept, which is at least 30% of the battle, and the writing showed potential (another 30%). Don't rush it. Read, revise, wait, review, rewrite. Make it not just 10x better. Make it 1000x better. Because it could mean the difference between signing on the dotted line or not.

Anonymous said...

And DLM! I sent you an e-mail with notes on those "ramblings" and "snippets". Holy crap you're good. Seriously. Put me out of my misery already. :)

Anonymous said...

Brian: Great advice. Wait until you can think rationally again. Hug a tree.

I will remember that.

Thank you.

Erin Parisien said...

Thank you everyone for the advice. I will put it away and let it sit for the summer while I pick up where I left off on my current WIP. And don't worry! I never feel like I'm not working or being creative, because the characters in my head are always clamouring to have their stories told. Of course, it's usually at night, when I'm trying to sleep, but at least it keeps me busy!

Colin Smith said...

OK, I've vommented on-topic, so now it's time for an off-topic vomment:

I just finished DEATH EX MACHINA by Gary Corby, and it stayed great right to the end. My only question is: Why hasn't Janet offered this book as a contest prize yet? The book is so good, I'd enter for a chance to win a second copy for my wife. She's a fan of the series too. :)

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and did you know you can sing the chorus of Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye over the House end-credits music? Try it sometime... :)

AJ Blythe said...

2Ns - you said it perfectly!! if that happened to me I'd have to disable send or I'd shoot myself in the foot while it was strategically placed in my mouth

I run my ms through a program (I subscribe to autocrit, although there is a free version which doesn't have as many features). It spits out sentence lengths (for flow), overused words etc. A great place to start.

I then take my printout and go for it. I need a hard copy because that's the way my brain works. I seem to be able to 'read' it better than on the screen.

I also read aloud. For those who don't like the sound of their own voice, MSWord will read it aloud for you. You lose expression, but it's better than nothing.

@Julie Weathers - The Hub's cousins (two sisters) were fighting it out over a boy name. They decided whoever had a boy first got to use the name. Then it was a race to get pregnant. I think their hubby's won in that contest! The result was one had a girl, the other a boy.

Gingermollymarilyn said...

@ Dena - I struggle with redundancy of words, too. But, I feel when, in your example, using EVERY SINGLE WORD (as opposed ot every word), creates more impact, more strength, in your statement.

AS to Kay 42's question regarding editing. I do both - on the laptop and hard copy. I find that I make the best and most important edits from a hard (paper) copy.

@ Kelsey Hutton - I like your way of articulating it. And Colin - "that's why we use redundancy in common speech."

All commenters: Suffering loves company! Oh, how we toil over words. I love how I'm not the only one (sorry), but many friends I have think that when you write, the words come out perfectly, in wonderful sequence and set sentence structure - like water out of a fountain - seamless and flowing... I wish!! Well, sometimes, they do - in moments of raw emotion.

Fingers crossed for you, OP! Erin?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Kate42, edit on screen ad nauseam, print and retire to another room to read and edit. Back to screen, edit, then print again and read out loud. Back to screen, edit, read out loud, edit, pray, beg, query, hope, dream, drink too much, eat too much, get pissed off, set aside. Start another project, (knitting), comment on this blog about how frustrating the whole system is, cry, give up, start up, again, and as they say across the pond, "keep calm carry on".

Anonymous said...


They both knew they were having girls and one was due six weeks before the other. That when negotiations for the name started. It finally got up to the agreed upon pickup, but negotiations fell apart. Not because of the pickup but repercussions should the first party back out and the second party have to kill the first party because the second party's wife was heartbroken.

Anonymous said...

Julie: So neither of them used the name? I'm sure there are two very happy young girls! If they're too young to be happy about it now, I'm sure they'll be a lot happier when they're older. :)

LynnRodz said...

Karen, I love Monty Python. The spam skit was hilarious. Thanks for sharing.

Elissa, aha, thanks for the explanation. My female protagonist plays jazz piano. Musically, I'm living vicariously through her. Lol.

LynnRodz said...

Julie, one should've had the name stormie, the other sunny.

Matt Adams said...

Hey Kate, I forgot to add this -- when I'm paper editing, I limit myself to 30 pages per session -- maybe to get to the end of a chapter I'll go to 40, but never longer. More than that I i tend to gloss ond I start missing things.

I'll do two sessions in a day -- one in the morning and one around nine at night to get my eyes fresh for each time.

Interesting to read everyone's techniques. I was talking to someone who just finished her first MS this morning -- she had thought the writing was the hard part. And she hasn't even started querying yet.

Ah, rookies :)

Anonymous said...


The middle son got the name and we dearly love Stormie.

You have to keep in mind this is Texas, home of Dusty Rhodes and similar names.


Anonymous said...

Kelsey: Yes. That. About rhythm. Sometimes I know the rhythm of a piece of conversation or a sentence before I know the actual words.

Kate: I do several different things for edits. First, I edit the piece as much as possible on the computer, in Word. (That's ongoing, from the time I write the first page, but there's always one big overhaul at the end, too). Then I print it out in Times New Roman, single spaced, and edit it that way. Those usually end up scribbled ALL OVER with red. More red than black, in some cases. Then, after I've typed up all those changes, I go over the MS with the search and find function to make sure all my spellings are set to Australian (sometimes Word messes with me and tries to mix Aussie and US spellings).
Then I format it and send it off to Createspace along with the cover. I order a proof and do my final round of edits on the book. It's amazing how much you catch from Computer to Paper, and from Paper to Book form. It makes you look at the MS very, very differently. It's like it toggles a little switch in your mind.

DLM said...

Aw Brian! I wasn't going to out you - but thank you. I did respond just now, and THANK YOU so much!!!! Not only for the compliment in public, but for your time and for looking at my embryonic work. :)

Unknown said...

I agree--it's fascinating to hear everyone's editing plans of attack. Although I have to admit: I love editing much more than first-draft writing (especially now, as I'm currently writing from scratch). A blank page is so much harder for me to face than one covered in words, no matter how flawed they may be.

Also, Janet posted the Acknowledgements from Jeff Somers' TRICKSTER awhile ago now, and man, can he write rhythm! I still sometimes re-read that post, the way I would listen to a favourite song, just to bask in his use of commas.

(Blogger hates my hyperlinks so here it is, old school: http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.ca/2013/02/id-listen-to-him-read-phone-book-aloud.html)

Thanks everyone for a great round of comments to chew on.

Anonymous said...


Heh, Brandon went for Samantha so we have a little Stormie and a little Sammie.


Unknown said...

So many comments here made me laugh! I do so love this blog.

I too really enjoy the rhythm of words and think that can count for a lot. For example, “Every single word.” Yes it’s rhythmic. But we can go further if we need to further change the pace:

Every single word. Every single damned word.

Executing a musical ritardando in words. Yep, I’m a music geeks writing about a bunch of high school musicians. I like that rhythm thing. I also like alliteration and rhyme as a rhythm technique. (And how cool that the “que” at the end of technique works like a rim shot.)

I do, “cut it till it bleeds.” Dena’s words. I had to. I was at 117K words for ya AFTER cutting all the unnecessary plot bits. And I reviewed every single damned word. And did it again. And again.

Not that I don’t enjoy loquacious and descriptive authors. I love Pat Conroy. In Beach Music he wrote,

“American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.”

Longwinded for sure, but superbly rhythmic. And not one word can be added, or changed, or deleted, without irrevocably altering the passage. Now there is a master.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Julie, I'm adding to my scene cards: if it ties to something.

Instead of listing my scenes on cards I did listed them on paper. Now I think I'll cut them out so I can move them around. Next time I'll use index cards.

A friend of mine arrived one evening, told me she just met this guy named Storm. She listed his good points and asked if I thought she should go out with him. Before I could answer, she listed his bad points and decided he wasn't the right guy. On her way home her car car got a flat. When she was replacing the tire she looked up and noticed a billboard looming over her. The word storm on it in big red letters. She called me and said she'd seen a sign, decided Storm was right for her. She sees lots of signs.

@Kelsey I agree. Somers has rythm, what a voice. I'm rereading We Are Not Good People.

Brian, I'm not a rookie, I'm a query-virgin but at least I have a clean reputation.

Slow down, yes, good advice. Eat slowly, I read last night it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to feel full. Think of all the flab we can cut by slowing down.

Erin, good luck with line editing. I know this will be the biggie for me. Luckily I have an editor friend who'll trade a painting for her service. If I could only barter for my taxes, life would be perfect.

Linda Strader said...

Oh how I can relate to this. It IS hard not to jump in, make the requested edits and resend too soon. I regret I've done that several times. Ouch. After so many conflicting comments and feedback from editors and agents, I set the book aside for 6 months. Hard? You bet. But what a difference 6 months made. With a fresh approach, the book is 100 times better. That's great, but did I burned bridges? Since I sent revised pages too soon, the agents that requested edits probably think I'm a nutcase. So, what do I do now? Move on, or is it okay to send this new version to those agents?

Anonymous said...


The scene cards are very helpful. Some people get convoluted with them. I stay fairly simple.

Ha, love it. That would be kind of a cool name. So, how did that turn out?

We named our first son after a saddle bronc rider my husband used to run with. We were going to name him Brandon MacReynolds Weathers, since the bronc rider's name was Brandon MacReynolds. People use a lot of surnames for first and second names in the south.

One of the cousins commented we could call him Brandon Mac like a kin folk who was kind of wild. We decided we didn't need that omen.

Anonymous said...

While I do a lot of my offline work on paper, a friend of mine uses Scrivener, and says you can move scenes around like cards. Just in case someone might find that program interesting. It costs, but my friend thinks it's worth it. Me, I'm fine with Word.

Linda: I was going to say that your novel might need to be changed significantly if you want to requery those agents... but what the heck. Why not send again? Remind them that they liked it before, and that you've revised a lot. If there was something specific they weren't sure of, tell them what you changed. If the bridges are burnt, you'll get a rejection (no big deal). If not, you've tried, right?

Although, if there is another agent at that agency who seems a good fit, I might query them first. But that's something you'd need to decide yourself.

But I think Janet would say: Why not just try other agents? Someone who could fall freshly in love with the novel as it is now?