Submitted Too Early

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Lakey

professional dilettante
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 20, 2017
Messages
1,483
Reaction score
774
Location
New England
Thank you for the encouraging words - I am committing to seeing this rejection as a positive! Can you be more specific about the ripening? I hope that you are not suggesting that going back to edit again is the loveliest stage of writing a novel :D
It is the best and most enjoyable stage of writing for me. Don’t assume that revision is unpleasant or a chore. Some writers dislike it but for others it’s the most satisfying part of the work. I find generative work (creating new material out of nothing) excruciating; it comes very slowly for me and with a great deal of pain. I much prefer the revision stage, where I get to see the work improve as a direct result of my efforts, see the story shape up and start to do some of what I set out to do with it.

On topic, I agree that this seems like an encouraging rejection, and also that I wouldn’t rush in to hiring a professional developmental editor. You probably have quite a lot that you can still learn about craft on your own, from resources like AW, from reading other authors’ published works critically, from reading books on craft, from beta readers, etc. Learning to write novels is a process, and a long one. Working on learning the skills to make the book as good as you possibly can on your own, before you decide to pay someone to tell you what to do.

:e2coffee:
 

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
7,514
Reaction score
3,332
Location
Aotearoa
It is the best and most enjoyable stage of writing for me. Don’t assume that revision is unpleasant or a chore. Some writers dislike it but for others it’s the most satisfying part of the work. I find generative work (creating new material out of nothing) excruciating; it comes very slowly for me and with a great deal of pain. I much prefer the revision stage, where I get to see the work improve as a direct result of my efforts, see the story shape up and start to do some of what I set out to do with it.

On topic, I agree that this seems like an encouraging rejection, and also that I wouldn’t rush in to hiring a professional developmental editor. You probably have quite a lot that you can still learn about craft on your own, from resources like AW, from reading other authors’ published works critically, from reading books on craft, from beta readers, etc. Learning to write novels is a process, and a long one. Working on learning the skills to make the book as good as you possibly can on your own, before you decide to pay someone to tell you what to do.

:e2coffee:
+1 from me!
 

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
Beware of reading too much into rejections, even personalized ones. This is a very nice rejection, and you should give it the time they gave to you in writing it, but not more. There's never any point in worrying about whether an editor has actually read your MS, for instance. It honestly does not matter.

That said--and I'm about to ignore my own advice and read into it--I'd guess the subtext here is "you're not ready" which indeed does happen to everyone, but it's likely a larger publisher or agent would form reject you; some newer publishers can afford to be nicer because they may have a bit more leeway with their time, at least at first. Or you just got them on a nice, sunny afternoon with a gentle breeze.

Developmental editing vs. beta-reading vs. classes and workshops vs. reading critically vs. just getting better over time is a slightly different debate, and, IMO, no publisher can or should really recommend one over the other. The takeaway is to realize that you need more time and find whichever of the above (and more) works for you and your book. (E.g., lit-fic tends to benefit more from workshops; it's easier to find betas for SF and commercial, etc. But even these are generalizations.)

I think your initial instinct, that you subbed too soon, is the one you should listen to and learn from. For starters, you submitted to publishers, and while there's no particular problem with this, if you're aiming for trade publication it might be better to at least consider an agent, and the good news is you haven't burned any agents yet, or any imprints that only take agented subs, which is most of them. The submission process, too, takes slowing down and learning.

It's likely that you're making, if not basic mistakes of craft and mechanics than the slightly-more-advanced mistakes that mark you as a promising writer, but one who's very, very green. If you're not familiar with it already, Slushkiller offers a good spectrum. It's relatively easy to get into the upper half of it--anyone who has finished a book has at least a decent chance of having written functional paragraphs. The later stages, though--that's what separates "publishable" from not. Getting to that level is a lot harder than just writing a book, so as others have said, it's likely this is where your work begins.

A good start would be to get your 50 posts and post an excerpt in SYW, as people here can and will catch the intermediate/advanced mechanical wobbles. The best way to get to 50 posts--and by far more helpful for learning craft than actually posting your own material--is to critique other excerpts posted there, training your eye to catch mistakes that jar your reading eye out of the story. That way you start training your eye to catch (some) of these in your own work. It takes time, but you have to train yourself to get distance.

I've always suspected that an awful lot of people seek out editing way, way too early. For starters, there's no replacement for learning the above. More, a good editor (and there are absolutely bad editors out there, too, especially among those who will take an unpublished debut MS) will tell you what's wrong, but not how to fix it effectively; a good edit can be and almost always is overwhelming, and if the book really is not quite there, it's just as often the case that the edit can only reveal that a book needs a complete rethink, well beyond what even a developmental editor can realistically provide. It may be the author needs to reconsider why they wrote the book, what the book really is, etc., and no editor can tell you that. You have to learn how to ask those questions of yourself, before subbing, because even once you get the holy grail of a publishing contract, you still have to learn to do this work, except by that point you're under much more pressure and a much tighter deadline.

The easiest mistake to make is to rush. Nothing in publishing moves quickly, least of all authors. Learn to accept that, take your time, and make sure you only ever publish your best work.
Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed and thoughtful response. I am glad indeed that I only subbed to 9 publishers before I stopped. The only problem is that I will have to mention that when I try the agent route, which seems to make much more sense to me now.

While I let this most likely very flawed MS ripen, I will definitely check out the link you provided and continue to browse the forums! I suppose I won't be able to make an informed decision about what might be the best route until I get some feedback. Editing is probably too expensive, although I can see arguments for and against it.. the problem is that it's so subjective! I wish I could just pop it into some app and have an AI tell me how it matches up against a million other genre novels :D
Beware of reading too much into rejections, even personalized ones. This is a very nice rejection, and you should give it the time they gave to you in writing it, but not more. There's never any point in worrying about whether an editor has actually read your MS, for instance. It honestly does not matter.

That said--and I'm about to ignore my own advice and read into it--I'd guess the subtext here is "you're not ready" which indeed does happen to everyone, but it's likely a larger publisher or agent would form reject you; some newer publishers can afford to be nicer because they may have a bit more leeway with their time, at least at first. Or you just got them on a nice, sunny afternoon with a gentle breeze.

Developmental editing vs. beta-reading vs. classes and workshops vs. reading critically vs. just getting better over time is a slightly different debate, and, IMO, no publisher can or should really recommend one over the other. The takeaway is to realize that you need more time and find whichever of the above (and more) works for you and your book. (E.g., lit-fic tends to benefit more from workshops; it's easier to find betas for SF and commercial, etc. But even these are generalizations.)

I think your initial instinct, that you subbed too soon, is the one you should listen to and learn from. For starters, you submitted to publishers, and while there's no particular problem with this, if you're aiming for trade publication it might be better to at least consider an agent, and the good news is you haven't burned any agents yet, or any imprints that only take agented subs, which is most of them. The submission process, too, takes slowing down and learning.

It's likely that you're making, if not basic mistakes of craft and mechanics than the slightly-more-advanced mistakes that mark you as a promising writer, but one who's very, very green. If you're not familiar with it already, Slushkiller offers a good spectrum. It's relatively easy to get into the upper half of it--anyone who has finished a book has at least a decent chance of having written functional paragraphs. The later stages, though--that's what separates "publishable" from not. Getting to that level is a lot harder than just writing a book, so as others have said, it's likely this is where your work begins.

A good start would be to get your 50 posts and post an excerpt in SYW, as people here can and will catch the intermediate/advanced mechanical wobbles. The best way to get to 50 posts--and by far more helpful for learning craft than actually posting your own material--is to critique other excerpts posted there, training your eye to catch mistakes that jar your reading eye out of the story. That way you start training your eye to catch (some) of these in your own work. It takes time, but you have to train yourself to get distance.

I've always suspected that an awful lot of people seek out editing way, way too early. For starters, there's no replacement for learning the above. More, a good editor (and there are absolutely bad editors out there, too, especially among those who will take an unpublished debut MS) will tell you what's wrong, but not how to fix it effectively; a good edit can be and almost always is overwhelming, and if the book really is not quite there, it's just as often the case that the edit can only reveal that a book needs a complete rethink, well beyond what even a developmental editor can realistically provide. It may be the author needs to reconsider why they wrote the book, what the book really is, etc., and no editor can tell you that. You have to learn how to ask those questions of yourself, before subbing, because even once you get the holy grail of a publishing contract, you still have to learn to do this work, except by that point you're under much more pressure and a much tighter deadline.

The easiest mistake to make is to rush. Nothing in publishing moves quickly, least of all authors. Learn to accept that, take your time, and make sure you only ever publish your best work.
Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed and thoughtful response. I am glad indeed that I only subbed to 9 publishers before I stopped. The only problem is that I will have to mention that when I try the agent route, which seems to make much more sense to me now.

While I let this most likely very flawed MS ripen, I will definitely check out the link you provided and continue to browse the forums! I suppose I won't be able to make an informed decision about what might be the best route until I get some feedback. Editing is probably too expensive, although I can see arguments for and against it.. the problem is that it's so subjective! I wish I could just pop it into some app and have an AI tell me how it matches up against a million other genre novels :D
 

Unimportant

but appreciated anyway...
Kind Benefactor
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 8, 2005
Messages
7,514
Reaction score
3,332
Location
Aotearoa
Thank you for taking the time to write this detailed and thoughtful response. I am glad indeed that I only subbed to 9 publishers before I stopped. The only problem is that I will have to mention that when I try the agent route, which seems to make much more sense to me now.
That is true. But, consider:

You can put this novel aside. Start writing another one. Get some feedback on novel 1, here at AW or whatever critique groups you're using. Use what you learn not just to reconstruct novel 1, but to design and improve novel 2.

Query some agents with novel 1. Meanwhile, finish novel 2. By the time you've learnt to write and perfect a query letter, you'll probably have finished novel 2 ;) That section in Share Your Work is called Query Letter Hell for a reason!

If novel 1 gets an agent, you explain about the publisher limitations and let them work within those restrictions.

If novel 1 doesn't get an agent, query with novel 2. That one will have no restrictions. And if an agent picks up and sells novel 2 to one of your Oopsie Nines, at that point the publisher will certainly be willing to reconsider a revised novel 1.

So you've really not lost much at all! ;)
 
  • Like
Reactions: Set2Stun

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
Having jumped the gun on querying my first book as well (albeit I stuck to agents, most of whom auto-rejected on length (although in my case it was too long for YA, at 102k words -- mostly because I didn't learn about the YA-specific genre expectations until I was nearly done writing the thing)... and the resource I used claimed that a few of them accepted YA which they didn't) by doing it before bringing in any critique partners, beta readers, etc, I can relate to the issue.

While in a perfect world, everybody would have the money to throw around on professional editors, you should probably at least try to find a critique partner and make some progress on your own before doing anything drastic. Right now, your manuscript has only ever had our eyes on it. The issues might be things that could be easily flagged by a critique partner.

The one advantage to a professional editors -- as others have noted -- is that you might consider using one if you wind up self-publishing instead. However, the cost of editors could outweigh any potential earnings on the book.

EDIT: When you were submitting to publishers, you were submitting a long-form synopsis, right? Something like that could probably help to flag at least some structural issues
I do need some eyes on it, though the idea of sharing does cause me to feel much axiety! I'm sure everyone feels that way, unless they are confident to the point of being delusional, I suppose.

The submitting guidelines were different for each; most wanted the full MS and just a 250-word synopsis. Only two wanted the first three chapters, and only one or two wanted a plot outline longer than a page.

I do see an argument for the novel being two separate stories, but I thought they meshed together pretty well. Opinions though, right? There are plenty of stories that have multiple POVs and far more than two settings, say like a Cloud Atlas.
 

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
That is true. But, consider:

You can put this novel aside. Start writing another one. Get some feedback on novel 1, here at AW or whatever critique groups you're using. Use what you learn not just to reconstruct novel 1, but to design and improve novel 2.

Query some agents with novel 1. Meanwhile, finish novel 2. By the time you've learnt to write and perfect a query letter, you'll probably have finished novel 2 ;) That section in Share Your Work is called Query Letter Hell for a reason!

If novel 1 gets an agent, you explain about the publisher limitations and let them work within those restrictions.

If novel 1 doesn't get an agent, query with novel 2. That one will have no restrictions. And if an agent picks up and sells novel 2 to one of your Oopsie Nines, at that point the publisher will certainly be willing to reconsider a revised novel 1.

So you've really not lost much at all! ;)
Yes, these are almost exactly my current plans! Going to let #1 sit until at least the spring, and really go full steam ahead on #2 in the meantime. Realistically the best case scenario for #1 is what you said. #2 almost certainly will be of much higher quality, and by that point I might even find #1 to be an embarrassment !
 

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
It is the best and most enjoyable stage of writing for me. Don’t assume that revision is unpleasant or a chore. Some writers dislike it but for others it’s the most satisfying part of the work. I find generative work (creating new material out of nothing) excruciating; it comes very slowly for me and with a great deal of pain. I much prefer the revision stage, where I get to see the work improve as a direct result of my efforts, see the story shape up and start to do some of what I set out to do with it.

On topic, I agree that this seems like an encouraging rejection, and also that I wouldn’t rush in to hiring a professional developmental editor. You probably have quite a lot that you can still learn about craft on your own, from resources like AW, from reading other authors’ published works critically, from reading books on craft, from beta readers, etc. Learning to write novels is a process, and a long one. Working on learning the skills to make the book as good as you possibly can on your own, before you decide to pay someone to tell you what to do.

:e2coffee:
I do hope I come to see it this way as well. After a couple of weeks, re-reading and editing certainly was starting to feel like a chore. I will be most pleased if I find myself excited about it come this spring. I've kept every version of the story, in case I decide that something was better the way it was before a change (haven't felt that way yet, fortunately); it will likely prove interesting to review the progression in the future. I do have a lot to learn, but one thing that I think I understand quite well now is that writing is a loooong process, and there's no sense rushing into anything.

I picked up a novel last weekend for simply pleasure, but I've caught myself critically evaluating it. Fortunately it hasn't affected my enjoyment of it at all :)
 

Nether

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
547
Reaction score
511
Location
New England
I do need some eyes on it, though the idea of sharing does cause me to feel much axiety! I'm sure everyone feels that way, unless they are confident to the point of being delusional, I suppose.

I wouldn't necessarily say there needs to be confidence so much as there needs to be an understanding that few things turn out perfectly and it's very natural for a manuscript to have problems early on (which is something of an exercise in humility). It's really only over-confidence when people are sharing with the expectation that there aren't any going to be any problems. And, honestly, even published fiction will have mistakes of some kind. (That said, not all advice is necessarily useful, because something can be excellent advice in a vacuum while going against your vision for your book.)

And honestly, if you get something published, you're going to have a lot more people than critique partners and beta readers looking over it :p
 
  • Like
Reactions: Set2Stun

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
I wouldn't necessarily say there needs to be confidence so much as there needs to be an understanding that few things turn out perfectly and it's very natural for a manuscript to have problems early on (which is something of an exercise in humility). It's really only over-confidence when people are sharing with the expectation that there aren't any going to be any problems. And, honestly, even published fiction will have mistakes of some kind. (That said, not all advice is necessarily useful, because something can be excellent advice in a vacuum while going against your vision for your book.)

And honestly, if you get something published, you're going to have a lot more people than critique partners and beta readers looking over it :p
Yes, fair points. It's kind of strange how often I am reading a mainstream, published novel, and I find that there are still spelling mistakes and basic grammatical errors, even after multiple printings. Never mind about things like structure and so forth.. such a subjective business, isn't it :/

Edit: I said objective instead of subjective -_-
 
Last edited:

Fuchsia Groan

Becoming a laptop-human hybrid
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 27, 2008
Messages
2,565
Reaction score
632
Location
The windswept northern wastes
I admit that “Every writer needs an editor. Seriously.” rubs me the wrong way. They’re not pushing editorial services on you, so they must be making that statement in good faith, and more power to them. But I’ve heard the same sentiment so many times from people who are in fact offering editorial services, often accompanied by blanket statements like “Publishers don’t have editors who actually edit manuscripts anymore” (false, in my experience). One writing coach (who herself had never trade published) told me that I should count myself very “lucky” to have gotten an agent and sold a novel without buying editorial services first, as if it must have been a fluke.

So … I don’t like how “Hire an editor to get published” has become the received wisdom. But this thread is full of great advice on alternative and less costly pathways. And, for those who can afford it, I’m sure it can be very helpful to hire the right editor.

The problem is that, as you say, the process is subjective. And you can’t remove that subjectivity. The best you can do is make sure your CP, editor, or whatever is well versed in the genre you’re writing, and in what sells in that genre now, not ten years ago. (Case in point: An agent told me not to write in first-person present tense. I didn’t listen, instead going by what I saw in comp titles, and the first book I sold was FPPT. It was right for that market at that time.)
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,141
Reaction score
4,735
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
I don't like that, either - mostly because it shuts out publishing as an option for all but a fairly privileged cohort.

This.

The best way to learn to self-edit, IME, is to read. A lot. In as much variety as you can. Editing is about a sense of rhythm, pacing, and narrative, and the more you can internalize how that works for stories you like, the easier it'll be for you to see the shape of your own work.

Which is to say it might not be easy at all. :) I'm much more clear-eyed about other people's work than my own. But reading, as n many cases, is marvelously beneficial to the writer.
 

Lakey

professional dilettante
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Apr 20, 2017
Messages
1,483
Reaction score
774
Location
New England
The best way to learn to self-edit, IME, is to read. A lot. In as much variety as you can. Editing is about a sense of rhythm, pacing, and narrative, and the more you can internalize how that works for stories you like, the easier it'll be for you to see the shape of your own work.

Which is to say it might not be easy at all. :) I'm much more clear-eyed about other people's work than my own. But reading, as n many cases, is marvelously beneficial to the writer.
Can’t +1 this hard enough. Read, read, read, read, read. Read with brain engaged; take apart your favorite books and your favorite passages; observe how authors do what they do. It will help your writing at every level.

:e2coffee:
 

Set2Stun

Banned
Joined
Sep 30, 2021
Messages
144
Reaction score
53
Well, I do have that going for me at least. I'm a proper reading machine, have been since I was a kid. The variety part though, maybe not so much! The closest thing to literary fiction that I've read in the past few years was Ted Chiang. I'm a bit of a genre guy, almost exclusively reading fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. Definitely have been reading a lot closer these days, rather than for just the pleasure of getting lost in a story.
 

lizmonster

Possibly A Mermaid Queen
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jul 5, 2012
Messages
9,141
Reaction score
4,735
Location
Massachusetts
Website
elizabethbonesteel.com
Well, I do have that going for me at least. I'm a proper reading machine, have been since I was a kid. The variety part though, maybe not so much! The closest thing to literary fiction that I've read in the past few years was Ted Chiang. I'm a bit of a genre guy, almost exclusively reading fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. Definitely have been reading a lot closer these days, rather than for just the pleasure of getting lost in a story.

I read almost nothing but mysteries for 20 years. :) I think you can get variety and stay in-genre.

The idea is to internalize story shape, so you can learn to recognize when your own work is roaming into the weeds. Even so, though...it's not easy, and it takes practice. IME we're all too close to our own stuff to easily read it with any objectivity.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Set2Stun
Status
Not open for further replies.

Happy Thanksgiving

Autumn image for Thanksgiving