“Agents who reject your query seldom give feedback. If they provide comments, pay attention! They know what sells. Take their advice. Consider applicable rewrites. These might make the difference between a hard no or a request for the full manuscript on your next query.” (Play On Words Editing)
I'm a freelance editor, and I like to think I give my clients sound advice. So, when I got an opportunity to follow my advice, I took it!
An agent rejected my manuscript with a tip: the book’s too short. She also told me that if I edited the story to make it longer, she’d welcome my query in her inbox again.
A rejection, plus advice, plus an invitation to resend! Barring a request for a full manuscript, that’s about the best initial agent response a writer can hope for.
But I didn’t relish the idea of rewriting my book. Any skilled writer knows they can’t increase a book’s word count by adding a bunch of adjectives and adverbs and making their sentences wordier. Cass slammed the book on the desk, cannot become Cass grew very impatient and, with a vicious scowl, slammed the heavy, thick book on the polished, sturdy oak desk to show her immense displeasure with the dreadfully horrible turn of events of the day. If I do that to enough sentences, I’ll bulk my 61k manuscript up to 95k in no time, but it’s a grade-school way to accomplish the task. The words in the bulky example diminish the emotion and the action. They tell what’s going on rather than letting the character show it, and leave the reader floundering in a sea of turgid description that adds little value to the story.
I knew I had to add solid content to my book, but when you’ve already completed a manuscript, it’s hard to consider what might be lacking. You don’t want to add fluff. Tacking-on scenes accomplishes the same thing as the extra words in my sentence above. If they don’t belong, they’re just padding out a story that doesn’t need them.
I asked a few of my writer friends for advice, and the best response came from Sophie Draper, author of The Stranger in Our Home and House of Secrets. She said, “Think about your story—is it incomplete? Have you developed the story line enough—think emotional impact, consequence, mystery and clues… (add) a subplot or some relevant backstory. I’d go back to the drawing board and re-plot and then rewrite from scratch, employing some of my already written scenes, but rebuilding around my core story pitch.”
Sophie’s guidance showed me how to tackle the rewrite to grow the story itself, not just the word count.
However, fear was a big part of the process. Over a year ago, I completed the original story. I feared I wouldn’t be able to wrap my head around the plot and the characters to increase the content; I feared the ideas wouldn’t come.
But I had to start somewhere. I began by analyzing the story’s existing plot and brainstorming ideas that might fit. Scenes played in my head, and the plot and characters expanded. A finished story grew like a brand new one once I released my imagination.
By the end of my study, I had listed the main points of the existing plot and created a page and a half of new ideas and a subplot.
The next step was to weave those concepts seamlessly into the existing plot; reading the new version, no one should detect any added elements or question whether they were necessary.
The initial cuts and additions to the manuscript were difficult; I mulled over the changes for a week before I dared to start. Once I did, things flowed. I started having fun and didn’t want to put it down.
Adding brand new material to an edited and polished document gets challenging in places. It’s hard to apply my first draft attitude of “Write something; write anything; fix it later,” to a document I’ve spent a few hundred hours making as perfect as possible. I’ve had to wrap my mind around the idea that I’ll be adding material in many places, and messy is okay. I’ll re-edit.
This invitation to expand and resend has forced me to explore an angle of writing I haven’t tackled before: to rewrite a completed text to meet larger specifications.
I’m up for the challenge. My 61k manuscript is at 84k and counting.
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n