Wednesday, September 13, 2017

How do I tell agents I love love love to revise!

I’ve noticed from my online research that many agents say one of the top criteria in offering representation is the author’s willingness and enthusiasm for manuscript revision. I actually enjoy the revision process, and I’d like them to know that up front. Should I mention it in my query and if so, in my bio paragraph or where? Do you have any suggestions for wording? Or should I wait and bring it up during The Call, when we each ask questions of the other in hopes of progressing to representation? Thanks for your views on this subject.

You're forgetting the one crucial place where you SHOW an agent that you're adept with revision: when the agent sends you editorial notes.

I'm much more likely to believe what I see over what I'm told.

So, how do you show you like revising?
1. You read the editorial letter carefully and ask about things you don't understand.

2. You know that the agent wants more than what she's written. That means if she says "this scene drags on too long" you understand you should analyze WHY that is, and look for other scenes it might apply to.

3. You ask about the agent's time frame. Often it's open-ended. That doesn't mean you have all the time in the world and it also doesn't mean rush. Work steadily, then allow time for the manuscript to sit, then go back.

4. Ask the agent it she wants updates, or just wants to know when it's almost ready to come back to her.

I'm always glad to have a client who can revise, but truth be told I'd rather get a manuscript in that didn't need it.

To answer your question: you don't put this in your query letter, much like you don't put how much you love canoodling in your online dating profile. 


Unknown said...

Probably also good if your online dating profile doesn't mention how much you love revising things.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...



Good one:)

Susan said...

I love canoodling, romantic dinners, and long walks on the beach. Also must love dogs.

Wait. Wrong forum?

I also love revisions and editing, but that's part of the creative process. If I'm sending something out to agents, to me that part of the creative process is over and now it's all about business. I want to get my manuscript to the best point it can be--whether it be for querying or for publication, so by then, even though I'm open to more revisions, the expectation is there that it's good enough/that I'd be happy if it were published as is.

Then again, I just dipped my foot back in the trenches, so who knows what the revision process will look like on that side of things.

RachelErin said...

I also love revising, and this list is a great way to think about it from the agent's end. I would have done all of them except ask if the agent wants updates along the way (I do a lot of team revisions for my day job, so I'm big on timeframe especially. Otherwise faculty never never never get it back to you).

I also might not have thought about 2, simply because I might have thought "oh, agent only mentioned scene A dragged. The other scenes must be fine, or agent would have mentioned them, too." Again, this is colored by the level of detail I need to give in Day Job. Which is why this blog is so helpful.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I love editing. So I edited 4.

4. Ask the agent if he wants a date, or just wants to know when I'm ready to canoodle.

Colin Smith said...

Susan: You don't mention canoodling first. Makes you sound too easy. Romantic dinners and walks on the beach first, THEN canoodling. And don't forget piña coladas and getting caught in the rain... ;)

Revisions... I'm sure I'll like them when I get to that place with an agent. So far I've yet to make it past first base...

BTW, y'all reckon "canoodle" will be in the next writing contest?

Unknown said...

I will can oodles of pickles this week. That's all I got. Mr. Forti?

Matt Adams said...

I thought I was going to be clever with a canoodling joke, and I see at best I'm eighth, and they are all better than mine.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Must love dogs and worship cats...

Wait. No. Ok.

*coffee then comment*. Staggers away in search of caffeinated fuel

Colin Smith said...

Kathy: How about:

Harry whipped out his wand.
Dling Ron turned into a troll.
Dling Neville became an acromantula.
Dling Too late. Hermione glared and pointed at Harry.
"Harry Potter, you're FIRED!"


Kregger said...


Sorry, but I prefer midwestern noodles myself. (That was a stretch)

OT: (Not political) Anyone watch the Clinton interview on the Today show as it pertains to her book?

She submitted her manuscript to the publisher at the end of July/early August. That's six weeks for revision, printing, distribution, and marketing.

If a glacier moved that fast, it'd have to stop and pick up its knickers from around its ankles.

Now that's canoodling!

Colin Smith said...

kregger: Something tells me Mrs. Clinton wasn't on any editor's wait list. In fact, I don't doubt she had the publisher's best person working exclusively on this and this alone. Just on the celebrity factor, the book's a guaranteed best seller, so who in their right mind would hold it up? "Sorry, Mrs. Clinton, but we're swamped right now. We just got Felix Buttonweazer's latest epic, CANOODLING WITH KALE, and it's 1700 pages. Give us six months and we'll look at your book..." I don't think so! ;)

Janet Reid said...

Kregger I did not see the interview with Mrs. Clinton but even if she turned in her final final ms end of July, I'd guess the publisher had seen some if not most of the book before that.

With a print run of that size, they have reserved press time, and marketing happens without the finished book all the time. That significantly cuts the pre-pub print time.

Which is not to say that book wasn't Quick like a brown fox, but writers don't have a gazillion pre-orders and instant access to every media outlet in the country and need more run up time to build buzz.

Unknown said...

You win! :)

Dena Pawling said...

Back in medieval times, I worked for a boss who felt compelled to make at least one red-line change in any project I submitted to her. She believed it proved to the higher-ups that she was an active participant and reviewed everything she sent up the chain of command. Therefore, to prevent her from imagining some error that she would red-line and possibly cause me to work longer on the project and/or making a change I disagreed with, I would ALWAYS be sure to leave at least one typo in the final submission. She was happy that she could red-line and prove she reviewed it, and I was happy because the actual substance of the project remained unchanged.

I don't suppose I should leave at least one typo in my query tho. Rats!

Kregger said...


I need to find something to say, do or befall, to become as famous as the Clinton's to sell my dino-porn meets 49 shades of gray. (That's Fred's pet meets dirty ghosts and...) to get on the NYT's best seller list.


I got nothing...back to work.


Susan said...

LOL, Colin! Good point. Pina coladas, then canoodling. I also don't like yoga.

I've missed this place.

Donnaeve said...

Aside from the canoodle conversation, I'm surprised the hamster wheel reference wasn't made - somewhere!

This, IMO, sounds like agents who were willing to take on a manuscript, sign a writer, only to find out during The Call, the writer is a bit of an asshat when they refuse to change their work, or seem reluctant towards suggestions.

That said, if it's an R&R, then of course what The Queen said is perfect!

Can Oodles of Noodles be good for you? Yeah. That's all I got.

Sherry Howard said...

When my picture book critique partners got agents, I was surprised at how many rounds of revisions went into most of their books before they were ever sent out to editors. Sometimes, the 500 word books were edited ten times before they went. We usually had "revised" at least ten times before that within our critique group. I'd thought I understood revision before that, but I truly hadn't. Somehow, the revisions with longer manuscripts seems easier. Be ready to slaughter your darlings. You have to get past being so attached to individual words/phrases that they mean more to you than the overall work.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Canoodling ?
Mine comes in a box.

Canoodling aye? I prefer Ameranoodling.

10 minutes for al dente noodling.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Ever since Kregger mentioned noodles, I've been hungry!

And how come Mrs. Clinton gets to the head of the writing queue? Oh yeah, because she's Mrs. Clinton, that's how. Who knew glaciers actually moved at the speed of sound? At least they do when you have the stature of Mrs. Clinton. Which means my great-grand kids will be running around by the time my book gets get published (I'm such a dreamer). ;)

I also enjoy the revision process, but if an agent requested a full from me, I'd want it to be the best it could be. I'm not saying I would be opposed to doing revisions, but as Janet said, better for the M/S not to need any revisions in the first place. Easier said than done, I know.

Colin, you're on a roll this morning, your posts are hilarious!

Off to the kitchen I go. I'm almost sure there's egg noodles in the pantry...

Lisa Bodenheim said...

manomanalive. Love all the tomfoolery, whoops, serious discussions happening within today's comments. I've nothing to add.

Except, Kregger, I now have an image of a canoodling glacier picking up its knickers from around its ankles after giving birth to a calf.

And Colin too, loved the HP flash.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Canoodling is when you cuddle with a Canadian :)

Kregger said...

And in the vein of revisions...

I amend the description of my current Ms.

Dino-porn canoodles with 49 shades of gray.

oh, yeah! So much better, so much better.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Wow... Y'all have really gone off the rails with this one. HA!

It would seem to me, if you're querying then you believe your ms is the best it can be. Highlighting the fact that you love to revise, in the query, is like saying, "My ms is complete. Sorta. Can't wait for your input on revisions. 'Cause, I love to revise!"

Unknown said...

Well, I've returned from the kitchen--found the egg noodles--and promptly noticed my previous post needs a revision! How on topic. Stupid me, I wrote "gets get published." That should read, "gets published." Sheesh!

Excuse me while I smash my head into my desk...

John Davis Frain said...

Susan, you sly devil.

"I love canoodling, romantic dinners, and long walks on the beach."

Sneaking in that you also love the oxford comma. #Irresistible.

Gypmar said...


I love that anecdote about your boss. It shows you have the kind of insight into human nature that a good writer needs!

Lennon Faris said...

In the vein of "one thing might mean more than exactly that," an agent who loves a client who loves to revise might actually love a client who listens, takes criticism/ advice well, and runs with it.

This whole canoodling thing is hilarious.

Janice Grinyer said...

So I must be the odd one. Like that needs to be mentioned LAWL

I have been learning "how" to edit these past eight months by researching here, there and everywhere a lot of helpful information. It has been a roller coaster, to say the least, while editing my own work now - LOVE HATE LOVE HATE OMG HATE HATE HEY OKAY LIKE LOVE OH HATEAGAIN...

But I now feel confident enough, so with some good whiskinated coffee and a few cats, it's been going well. Would I say I love it?

Er... "your baby has beautiful eyelashes!?" (what to say when you are faced with lying- LOOK FOR THE GOOD ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE GOOD) I should mention that I do love babies, but most look like potatoes when first born. Kind of act like them too. It's okay because I had two potatoes of my own once.

That is all, because, well, odd.

*shuffles off to go back to the cats and the editing*

Joseph S. said...

I feel like I'm always editing and revising. It's hard to know when the writing ends and the editing or revising begins.

And my sad and frustrating tale of the day: I'm sending query letters. Today, after a few years of writing, editing, reading, revising, and re-reading the manuscript, I noticed a missing word in chapter 2. In my imagination, bright neon lights will call every agent's attention to it. Bummer.

(The good news to that is that the agent would have had to get past the query letter to find it.)

Also, last night I started thinking thoughts like, "Maybe I ought to change the main character's name from E.J. to Slater."

Colin Smith said...

Joseph: Yup... if the missing word is in Chapter 2, they'll have to request at least a partial to get to that point. And now all the agents reading this will want your ms just so they can see if they can figure out the missing word.

That's marketing for you... ;)

Joseph S. said...

This may be peculiar to me, but when someone suggests or comments something specific, I make wholesale changes far beyond what they brought to my attention. With the novel, some seemingly minor changes created a ripple effect requiring modifications to other chapters. It became an interesting exercise. Since I had no absolute deadline, it was a good learning experience.

Colin - The omitted word came about in a paragraph I condensed from a page or two to two paragraphs to a long paragraph to a shorter paragraph, and it became one word too short.

Donnaeve said...

I'm editing my comment - cause I looooove me some editing too.

Original: "This, IMO, sounds like agents who were willing to take on a manuscript, sign a writer, only to find out during The Call, the writer is a bit of an asshat when they refuse to change their work, or seem reluctant towards suggestions."

What I should have said: ""This, IMO, sounds like there have been a few agents who were willing to take on a manuscript, sign x, y or z writers, and then found out during The Call, these writers were asshats when they refused to change their work, or seemed reluctant towards suggestions."

I needed to clarify I wasn't implying OP was an asshat - it sounded like that (sort of?) when I came back and re-read it.

I canoodled that one.

Unknown said...

I never heard the word asshat before I joined y'all! It's a good one.

Craig F said...

Professor Snoe: step away from that rodent wheel. I have not yet come across a book that was absolutely perfect. All have problems of some sort, and that is after the publicists have run them past their editors.

I have some questions about where this question came from. To me it sounds like an overactive imagination. I have seen agents rail against people saying that their novels were good to go. I have seen some rejections letters that said a revision would be a good idea. I do not think agents want authors who are too ready to revise. Agents want novels that are queried to be at the best their author could make.

I do not think I would be too ready to revise again. I did that five or six times before I felt it was time to dive into the trenches. I don't think it is perfect but it is as close as I could get it. Maybe it will get some wind beneath its wings and fly all the way to the bank.

Joseph S. said...

Craig F

My philosophy is akin to Neil Gaiman's:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

If someone has a problem with what or how I said something, it means I failed to communicate or get the desired response. My tendency is to try another approach (sometimes I leave it as is, though).

Joseph S. said...

Since I'm in the mood to throw out quotes, here's one by Stephen King (he's a writer):

"One rule of the road not directly stated elsewhere in this book: 'The editor is always right.' The corollary is that no writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice; for all have sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection.”

Donnaeve said...

Kathy If only I could claim it (asshat) as my own creation...but sadly no..."we" learned from the Shark herself.

And then she pops out today and uses canoodle - which is almost as good as underpants! Almost.

Susan said...

Popping back in tonight with absolutely nothing constructive to add.

Except John made me literally laugh out loud and Donna's use of canoodle as a verb is my new favorite thing.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I love editing but after reading all the comments a question comes to mind, what if my editing isn't good enough? Sure, I came up with the $ to pay a copy editor but what if it's all just a waste of time and nothing more than crap?
Can you tell I got a rejection today?
Well there's always tomorrow.

Colin Smith said...

Just to be sure... y'all are aware that "canoodle" in its verbal, noun, adjectival, and adverbial forms is a Britishism? It's one of many Britishisms Janet seems to enjoy using, proving to me that the only reason she lets me hang around here is because she has some kind of sympathy (or pity?) for the Brits... ;)

Unknown said...

Carolynnwith2Ns, you're not the only who got a rejection today...sigh. Sorry to hear about your rejection. Although I know there is tomorrow, right now I ain't too happy with today...sigh again. Okay, my pity party is over.

Back to work for me.

Before I do, I must repeat my mantra:

I am not giving up. I will be published.
I am not giving up. I will be published.
I am not giving up. I will be published!

Yeah, I had to add the exclamation point on the last one.

Anyone who wants to steal my mantra, feel free to do so. Just remember, I get royalties! ;)

BJ Muntain said...

Wow. I get here late, and miss all the canoodling. :(

In my bio, I often put the words "I read style guides for fun." It says a lot about me, I think, and I don't have much in my bio yet, besides a short story and a nonfiction article. Never thought about it as being 'I love revision', so I hope it's okay... If it's not, let me know, and I'll revise my query letter...

Joseph S. said...


I think we all wonder the same thing at one time or another.

John Davis Frain said...

From Susan
"Except John made me literally laugh out loud"

In my defense, I don't think that's a recent picture you're looking at. You'd be ROFL with my latest selfie.

Bonnee Crawford said...

I dunno, Tinder these days I feel like it's almost a given that you like canoodling. Maybe the ones who are there just for the canoodling SHOULD include it in their bios so that they can find each other and leave the people who are actually looking for a date alone.

I love revising my writing too, but I think it would be a little strange to actually include in the cover letter. More important things to do would be revise as much as possible before submitting and then, as you said, Janet, to be attentive with editing notes to prove that you are willing to collaborate in making the MS better.