Posted by Jennifer Slattery
The road to publication is long, arduous, and wrought with gray areas. Who’s advice do you follow? How many changes can you make without losing your story and voice? Imagine receiving personal advice from an editor. It’s exciting, and nerve-wracking! It means your novel has gained enough interest to warrant their attention, but it’s in no way a guarantee of publication. Today Anne Mateer shares her revise and resub story. I hope you’ll find it informative and encouraging.
Making Requested Revisions BEFORE a Contract is Offered by Anne Mateer
I sat across the table from a Bethany House editor, the two of us alone in a room while most other conference attendees sat listening to the keynote speaker. A month earlier, I’d sent the full manuscript of my novel, which she requested after seeing the beginning of it in the finals of the Genesis contest. My heart pounded and my hands twisted in my lap. A simple rejection would be done via email, not face to face—right?
We chatted. She set me at ease, telling me how much she enjoyed the story, the characters. My heart thumped harder. Was this the moment I’d been waiting for my whole life long?
She slid a stapled set of papers toward me. She and a couple of other editors had read through the book. And while they liked many things about it, they didn’t feel it quite ready yet. My heart sank into my stomach, then seemed to slither onto the floor in a puddle. A rejection after all.
The pages she handed me contained a run down of things they like about the book and things they felt weren’t quite up to par. Could I revise it and resubmit? She asked. Of course there are no guarantees, she continued.
I worked to keep my excitement in check, reminding myself this did not mean if I did the work I’d receive a contract. But I quickly realized the amazing opportunity that had been handed to me. Some of the best editors of historical fiction in the business had given me feedback on my book. Not just on a few opening pages, on the entire story! Whether or not my revision resulted in a contract, they were essentially offering me the chance of a lifetime—an advanced class in publishable historical fiction.
Holding tightly to this idea, I plunged into my manuscript, working on the issues they’d identified. More than anything, I wanted to grow as a writer, not to squander this opportunity to learn. With that as my goal, I finished the revision and resubmitted. No, it didn’t result in a contract. At least not at that moment. There were more tweaks before they felt it ready to go to pub board. At times I despaired that it would ever meet their mark, but I persevered, determined to strengthen my writing muscles. After a grueling six months of work, the editor called and offered a two book contract.
I could have opted out of the initial opportunity. But if I had insisted that I wouldn’t do the revisions without a contract (or at least the promise of one), I would have missed out on some amazing things—like understanding how to work with an editor, learning how to shore up problem areas of the story and honing my craft for its own sake. And while the contract itself was an awesome reward at the end of the process, the experience of revision and resubmission beforehand was a priceless gift from the Lord that I will always treasure.
Anne Mateer worked over ten years on the craft of fiction before seeing her debut novel, Wings of a Dream, in publication. Her second book, At Every Turn, releases in September of 2012. Anne and her husband of 25 years live in Texas. They are the parents of three young adults. Visit her online at AnneMateer.com, follow her on Twitter, or connect via Facebook.
Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family’s farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he’s the man she’s meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother’s sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur’s training camp as God’s approval of her plans.
But the Spanish flu epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt’s death, Arthur’s indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she’s always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.
We’d love to hear from you. Do you have any revision stories you can share? Any feedback from editors, agents, or crit partners you found especially helpful? What about when you receive conflicting advice? How do you sift through all the suggestions competing for your attention?