Look, If I’d known I was going to realize the necessity of an important revision to my novel six months after I’d begun querying, I would have waited to query.
My story was 2.5 years old, ten months to write and the rest for editing and revision. That’s a lot of work put into polishing the story out. In addition to my constant attention (working on it literally every day), it went through two freelance editors. There was constructive criticism, of course, but substantively the feedback was positive. Those editors took between 4-6 weeks with the book each, giving me time to “step away from it” and return with clear eyes. Each time I returned, I was happy and found nothing glaring.
I always knew that my story took a little while to get off the ground. It didn’t really get trucking until around page fifty. That’s not to say the first fifty were slow or anything. I still think they were good, but I knew the book didn’t start in the middle of the action. I don’t believe that a book has to start in the middle of the action for it to be a good book, and only a small percentage of my favorite books have. That said, I felt I would have liked a quicker pace, I just didn’t think there was a way to improve it. “This is just the way this story goes,” I told myself.
Beyond pace, I perceived the opening of my story as a weakness but couldn’t identify the reason why. One of the things the first act establishes is the main few characters’ motives, and I’d not done it cleanly. I knew this in my head, but rationalized it: “Come on, Chris. In real life, motives aren’t cut and dry, why should they be in your story?”
But there’s a difference between subtlety working in a character’s motive–gray areas–and those that are simply muddled. I think I knew subconsciously that the latter was the case with my first act, but for all the work I’d done and all of the problems I’d solved, I never realized it strongly enough to address it.
(I had around ten beta readers. None of them identified this as an issue. So, like I said, it wasn’t glaring but it very much influenced how the story clicked. An overall matter of quality.).
Then, on Monday of this week, while working on another manuscript, I had a moment of clarity. Suddenly, I understood the problem and (generally) how to solve it.
At that moment, I looked up, and said:
See, I’d already queried thirty agents with 14 rejections. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest are rejections as well, now that I am cognizant of this problem.
I’ve spent the last few days revising and will spend many more. But better to fix it now and have sent out a story with some issues to some agents than never to have realized the problem and have sent it out to all the agents.
I credit the writing of my second (unrelated) book with this revelation. There was a small part in that story that triggered my realization in the already queried manuscript. So, you never know where or when inspiration will strike. In this case, it came about six months after I started looking for an agent.
The revisions are going very well. They make sense. The motives are better crystalized and un-muddled. Onward.