View Full Version : Positive rejection: Query vs. Overhaul?

Leslie K
04-06-2015, 12:47 AM
I'm looking for insight from anyone with experience getting to the "almost" stage with an agent/ms, specifically how you went about about choosing your next steps following a positive rejection.

I've recently finished a "first draft" ms, (I've been overhauling with an editor for nearly a year, & we were both happy enough with this version to send it out). My editor's agent requested a full, read it, and sent it back within 2 weeks with a positive rejection: 2 pages of specific feedback, including proof the agent read through to the end, and an offer to read all future writing. Damn. So close! And thanks for the free writing workshop!

I'd sent a query to one other agent prior to receiving the rejection. The 2nd agent passed my query along to a newer agent at the same firm who requested a full. I sent the ms along after a few small, quick tweaks based on the first agent's feedback (easy fixes which rang true). It's now in this agent's reading queue.

My question is, what have some of you done after a positive rejection? I should mention I'm generally quick to slash, burn, and overhaul, and I'm already planning to dig into the meat of the agent's feedback to see where it leads, but I am a little concerned I might be jumping the gun. One agent's opinion is one agent's opinion, after all, but it was such hefty, specific feedback that I'm tempted to put the brakes on queries and write this book forever. (You only get to write your first book once, you know?)

So, AW, help! What have some of you done? Yay and argh. If you could help me put this problem into a bigger context, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

Leslie K
04-06-2015, 12:49 AM
Oh, and moderators, if this looks like a better question for the rejection forum, please bump me over!

04-06-2015, 01:27 AM
I suspect you're going to get some confusion over "editor" and "first draft" here. It took me a couple of times reading the 2nd paragraph to get where you were in the querying process. In this case, you mean an editor you hired to help you whip the novel into shape before querying, and "first draft" is not really a first draft at all.

How do you feel about the agent's suggestions? You said you tweaked some small things that rang true. Did the rest ring true? It's only one rejection, but if the rejection makes you realize problems with your novel, you should fix them before moving on. If you think they may be off or that they may just be one person's opinion, keep querying.

Leslie K
04-06-2015, 02:16 AM
Thanks for the feedback, Sage. This has been an atypical process, which I think accounts for some of the confusion. I received a grant to research/write a "first draft manuscript," and along with my grant came several requirements/opportunities for feedback built into the creative process. My "editor" is a novelist/mentor/fiction prof who has been providing guidance and feedback all along, essentially reading packets of pages, and directing my further exploration. Peer review was also a requirement of early stage work, so this ms has had many eyes on it during its creation. I suppose it might read like a 3rd draft, (or a "too many cooks" unfocused "first draft").

As for where I am in the query process, I've only sent out one query letter so far. That agent now has my full in her reading queue. The first agent requested my full without a query, so I received a bit of a shortcut (to a positive rejection).

Hope that helps. Sorry again for the confusion. I've been writing in a bubble, with a glut of feedback, but very little big picture context. I'm still trying to figure out where I fit in a community of writers.

04-06-2015, 04:30 AM
First draft confusion aside, if I were you, I'd ask my beta readers what they think. I received really specific feedback from one agent during the querying process which I thought pointed out some flaws in the book and I asked my betas what they thought. Like you, I'm ruthless when it comes to my own books and ready to hack and slash whenever. But my betas said the agent's crits aren't make or break, and they seem to be mostly subjective opinion. I listened to them (I was too close to the book to make a judgment call then, really) and it paid off. Other agents didn't mind the issues that agent found.

So yuh, betas. They're lifesavers. :)

Aggy B.
04-06-2015, 06:14 AM
If the feedback resonates, then you might look at changing the manuscript. But, you might want to wait and get some other opinions.

When I was querying I got two rejections on my manuscript (one after an R&R) almost back to back. The agent who had asked for the R&R, complained that my MC was too belligerent and unlikeable (in part) because she swore too much. The other agent said she appreciated that my MC didn't hesitate to use her fists to solve a problem.

You have to go with your gut. If you don't trust your gut right now then find a reliable beta-reader and/or wait for more feedback from agents. It's tempting to change things, especially when it's someone with some clout saying "This should be different" but sometimes we're faced with an issue of changes not making a book better (or worse) but just different. This early in the agent quest going for different might just be a waste of time. (Not saying that's the case with the advice you received, but it's always a possibility.)

Best of luck! :)

object of my charm
04-24-2015, 01:52 PM
oh, carve with skill. A weaker woman couldn't do it

04-29-2015, 11:11 AM
I definitely prefer the second-opinion approach (and third, and fourth, and...) When I had friends and family doing beta reading, I would make any change suggested that I immediately agreed with. If I wasn't sure, I would wait until I heard it from at least two sources.

This got harder the first time I got a 'positive rejection' from an agent who asked for what seemed like minor changes at first, but once I got into trying to make them, they felt really wrong for the story. I too have always had the attitude of "I'll do whatever you say," not wanting to be a prima donna author. But those edits felt, for the first time, like I was making the manuscript worse and not better.

It was tough deciding not to go with that, as she was the first agent to give me specific feedback and did offer to look at the manuscript if I "changed my style." But not one other reader has flagged her issue so far, and it happens to be a style element that I enjoy immensely in my favorite writers' work.

The nice thing is, with two pages of feedback you can pick and choose. There is always a layer of 'kill your darlings' that you have to work through, but if you really feel like the edits are making your product worse, don't do it. It probably means that editor/agent is never going to be quite the right fit for your work.