Sunday, 22 July 2012

A moment of Revelation

Last week was quite traumatic for me. After two and a half months of waiting for a response from an agent I heard back with a no. And it wasn't just a no to a submission, or a no to a full but a no to a big revision she had personally given me notes on. It was to be honest, the biggest no I'd ever had, the closest I'd ever got to the nirvana of being a represented author and now it was gone. Over.
I couldn't understand it. I'd done everything she'd asked for hadn't I? I'd revised and edited for nearly two months to improve my story and sent it back with a frisson of excitement. This could be nearly it!
Except it wasn't.
Because I hadn't done enough. I hadn't taken on board what she'd said about the plot. Not really. I'd fiddled about with it, I'd changed it, I'd adapted it but I didn't in my heart of hearts REALLY change it. I tried as so many of us do to get away with an easier revision. And now I was paying for it because I'd lost my chance.
  It wasn't laziness exactly. I believed the book was significantly better and that the plot change had been adequately dealt with. I didn't send it back thinking I'd done it half heartedly, of course not and so I was obviously hugely disappointed.
   Despite my failure the agent had very kindly given me some feedbak and her reasons for rejecting me but I couldn't understand it. Not at first.
 So I decided to put my story away. I couldn't bear to look at it. I couldn't even begin to change it when I couldn't work out what the problem was.
  Perhaps my first book could never be fixed, would never be published.. so I'd just move on to the next. That was the sensible thing to do surely?
 And so I've been editing and working on my second book for the last week and it's been hugely enjoyable.
I can see it improving every day. I can see the story shape changing, the characters developing but somehow my mind kept turning over the problem of my first book and that damned rejection...and then last night, at three a.m I had A MOMENT OF REVELATION.
  I saw suddenly that the problem at the heart of it could be changed. But not by small, careful edits. Not by clinging on to the story the way it was. I had to take a fresh perspective. I had to be willing to play around and change almost everything and it would mean another complete rewrite but I could do it.
 I got out of bed and made notes for half an hour and went back to bed knowing the solution.
 Perhaps I could have come up with it before, if I'd taken more time, if I'd really taken in the advice I was given or maybe it was only receiving that terrible rejection that allowed me to see, finally what was needed.
 Of course I could revise it all and it still might not be good enough. I realise that. But regardless I'd going to do it and hopefully I won't make the same mistakes again.

My lessons-

1. Do not rush an edit. Take your time. Let it sit with you for a while, months even, until you see a way forward that really fits, not just the easiest option.

2. Don't be scared of revision. Don't be afraid of thinking entirely differently and letting go of your original idea.

3. Believe that you can do it. You can change anything. It's your story after all.

4. Rejection may be your best friend. It may show you the way forward.

Have you had a moment of revelation? Do you have any tips on revision? Share them with us!


  1. This is a great post; thanks for sharing a painful, but common experience. I totally agree with your lessons learned. I have done rewrites involving change of POV, change of tense, sex of protagonist, back stories... you name it etc - but it took me many years of writing before I had the confidence and belief in myself that this was possible.
    Now, when I am asked to make changes, I welcome them as a creative challenge (once the hissy fit is over).
    I hope your revelation will lead you to greater things and especially finding that illusive agent. x

    1. Hi Wendy, thanks for your comments. It was a difficult experience but I'm really hopeful that it will lead to better things. Luckily the agent in question ( a lovely lady!) has offered to read it again when revised and I am desperate not to disappoint her this time and live up to her expectations.Hopefully, one day I'll be able to blog about some writing success!
      Lorraine x

  2. BIG commiserations on your No. But that agent by giving you a chance was affirming that you were a contender. So you might not feel like it now but ... congratulations! I think that ability to reboot a manuscript from scratch - despite the pain, the ego, the love for your original idea - is literally what it means to raise your game. Good luck- you're definitely on your way.

    1. Hi Candy, thanks for your comments. I am trying to remain positive and see it all as part of the journey...wrong turns and flat tires included!
      It seems strange that I used to think finishing the book was the hardest bit and now I know it's only the tiniest part of the process!
      Luckily I'm learning to love every angst filled moment. Lorraine x

    2. I agree with Candy, rejection raises your game and you must be worth her time, or she wouldn't offer to look again. Well done for getting there, almost!

  3. This is brilliant. Revelations like this are so great, even if it means more work - because at least you know WHAT work you have to do.

    1. Thanks Miriam - I agree entirely. Trying to figure out what to change can be a nightmare but thats what crit groups and lovely agents are for!
      Lorraine x