To Edit or Not to Edit

So, I’m pretty much done with my first round of queries where I had decided to approach agents who represented not only literary fiction but popular genres as well in an effort to obtain one agent that would benefit me over the life of my career. I am now wondering if that was doing a disservice to my novel or whether it was the best thing I could have done.

No, I do not have representation yet, but I have some very interesting feedback. I am more confident than ever in my writing style as I got multiple compliments on the writing itself. No, it was the organization of the plot and the character’s beginning emotional state that is in question.

From the agents I got actual feedback and not a form letter, it appears that they want it to read as more of a suspense novel instead of the literary piece I was striving for. My objection is that I am afraid this will be setting up my readers for disappointment, and I really don’t want to do that. Yes, there are suspense elements, but this is not a suspense novel.

I might be able to address some of this in the way that my protagonist is presented in the novel. By the time we enter the story, he’s already become quite emotionally numb to the ordeal and that may be one of the biggest problems. They can’t connect and engage with him. This is the first I’ve heard of this, but then again, these are all popular fiction agents and I have no idea what would happen if I handed it to agents who only take on literary projects.

So here is the quandary I am mired in. How much editing do I take on before sending it out again? Do I restructure the beginning to more closely resemble a suspense plot? Do I reframe the lead to be more of an emotionally accessible character? Or do I stick to what i have and send it to the next round of agents (which I’d already decided was going to be a strictly literary crowd)? This isn’t supposed to be the next Lovely Bones, but I think it could be the next Olive Kitteridge. Literary at heart with a wide popular appeal. In which case, I probably have a bit more work to do again before I start the next set of queries.

I didn’t think this was going to be the hardest part of being a writer. I definitely thought it was going to be the editing I would have to force myself to do BEFORE sending out to agents and all. But no, this is definitely the hardest part. Of course, I say this before getting past it, and who knows what kind of sand traps could come next. I know one author who really hates book tours, another who hates writing the first draft. I guess it’s all just dependent on the individual.

3 Comments

  1. jessicamjonas

    I believe when it comes to editing, it’s mostly up to you. If you’re sure that the suggestions would pull away from what you want the story to accomplish, don’t do it. If the feedback makes sense to you, or if you get the defensive “yes, but” response, then they’re probably onto something (my fiction professor once said the suggestion you dread having to follow is the one you really should, since it’s pushing you into something new and hard). I’m still in that initial, self-editing process, so I can only imagine the pain of thinking you’ve finished and then seeing a whole new wave of editing in front of you, but I wish you all the best of luck!

    • Rebecca Demarest

      Thanks, Jessica. It’s not so much pain right now as a bit of confusion over whether or not I should. Or how I should. I feel like they’re onto something, but I also don’t think I want to go entirely in the directions they are suggesting, so it’s a struggle trying to find the right balance between the suggestions and my own mental image of the work.

  2. Joanna

    Since your main objective was to write a literary piece you might want to go ahead and submit the manuscript to one or two literary agents and see what their response is and then if they have the same issues than start to make changes.

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