by R.C. Lewis
Last week on my blog, I did a post breaking down the various responses we get in the wonderful roller coaster known as querying. For most of the possible responses, my advice was not to agonize over it.
No response means no? Move on. Form rejection? Don't bother dissecting every syllable.
One of the exceptions to the "don't agonize" rule is the R&R—the Revise & Resubmit.
Technically, this is still a rejection. But it is (or can be) the best and scariest rejection. It's a rejection that leaves the door open. One that says, "I can't take you to dinner as-is, but if you lose ten pounds, clean up a little, and stop wearing those acid-wash jeans ... then maybe."
(Good grief, if anyone in the dating world ever says anything like that, do humanity a favor and smack him/her. But you get the idea.)
This is definitely a time when at least a little agonizing is warranted. Do the revision notes resonate with you, giving you ideas that you're confident can make your story better? If not, maybe a "Thanks, but no thanks" is in order. Was the feedback so vague you're not sure how to address it? Maybe a brief, polite follow-up email to clarify would be all right—but only to make sure you understand the agent clearly, not like you expect said-agent to hold your hand through the revision process. (If someone has a differing opinion on whether this is an appropriate time to email the agent back, please speak up. I'm making this up as I go.)
Or maybe you're like me in the first twenty minutes after I got my R&R email. After taking a moment to get over the stab to the gut ("Another no! And so close! But wait...!"), you realize the feedback totally makes sense. You wonder why you didn't see those issues before.
And you have no idea if you can fix it.
Critique partners to the rescue!
If ever there was a time to be glad for solid critique partners who will re-read your manuscript at the drop of a hat, tell you to your face that you need to stop using clichés like "drop of a hat," and hold marathon brainstorming sessions with you by email, this is that time.
I don't know yet if my R&R was successful. I know I made the story better, but this particular agent may still feel it's not for her. But in the end—I learned new things about writing and improved my work. So either way, this non-relaxing, very scary and nerve-racking R&R has been worthwhile.
Have you had an agent request revisions? What tips do you have for getting through the process?