If you’ve been reading the blog this week, you know I have a pitch appointment with an agent this coming weekend.  In typical fashion, I’ve been throwing myself into the preparation and research with a zeal normally reserved for when I get the bug to start decorating or organizing the house.  (See my posts on Organizing Your Life in One Week if you don’t believe me…).  Meaning – there are times when I try to do too much in a short period of time and perhaps go a little overboard.

Last night is a case in point.  I went to a bookstore to research titles from authors this agent represents.  Of course, every book seemed funnier, more poignant, more beautiful than anything I could write (there goes the Inner Mean Girl again).  So instead of spending the evening working on my actual pitch and preparing answers to questions that might come up during the session, I decided to obsess over my manuscript.

Now, there have been times when my manuscript had serious issues that needed addressing.  For example, it started as a concept with no story arc and no character development.  Once that was resolved, the narrative arc of the story needed tightening up to add humor, suspense, a satisfying ending and so on.  Next up was polishing the rhythm and meter to perfection.  I even had a professional help me with that part.  All of those big pieces are in place, but I started going line by line, looking for anything that could be made stronger.  There is nothing wrong with more editing per se, except that at this point, I’m wondering if the revisions I might make are just changes for the sake of changes rather than changes that will actually strengthen the story.

My husband said as much when I got home.  “You need to stop writing.  You’ve written it; now just get it out there.”

“But, but, but…” I protested.

His riposte? “Look, at this point you’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

That comment stopped me in my tracks, not only because he had just compared my manuscript to a sinking ship (unintentional, I’m sure), but because he was absolutely right and communicated the point in the only way I could grasp: excellent word choice.  🙂

So today I have pledged to make just one final review of the manuscript.  Then I need to follow the advice of John Burrows: “LEAP…and the net will appear.”

For the writers out there, how do you know when you are finished editing?  Do you ever know?

Categories: Authors, Children's Books, Inner Mean Girl, Publishing, Rhyming, SCBWI, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , ,

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10 Comments

  1. Your husband cracks me up! What excellent advice. And I’ve never heard the quote “leap and the net will appear.” Love that!

    Each time I look at a ms, I tweak something. I could probably do that forever, but yes, sometimes we just need to have faith and send it out.

    I wish you such good luck with your pitch…fingers crossed!

  2. I had just started writing an ms on post its for the first time ever when I came across your post, darn it!
    I have been procrastinating on this subject for ages!
    Luckily I am at the point with me critique partners where they are so honest, I have thrown stories in the bin in the last week or so. Don’t panic and tell me that all those months shoudn’t be thrown away on a whim, I had turned the stories inside out and back to front and they were just getting worse. I passed the point of no return when I should have sent them out or tossed them. It is so hard to know when that point it. The hardest thing is being objective. It would be so easy for a critique partner to keep looking for deck chairs to move around (love that btw!) and not mention that they don’t actually like the story. Join us in our critique group and we can all be honest together 🙂 I had too many wips anyway, and I haven’t looked back since. I am thrilled to have time to work on Rake and Spade (until the distractions crept in of course 😉 )
    Thanks for the post, we seem to share a lot of issues.
    Best of luck at the pitch appointment. You’re braver than I am.

    • Believe me, I’ve had stories I’ve had to throw away too – although never in the bin. Just into the “I’m never going to submit this” file.

      The trouble, even with critique groups, is that if you give your story to someone for feedback, they are going to assume you want, well, feedback. So they’ll always try to find something. My crit. group is great in the sense that we’ve seen multiple versions of each other’s work. At some point, one of us (not me) got the point with a piece where we all said – submit! There’s nothing much more you can do here without professional input.

      I think that is where I am with this one story, but it’s been 2 years in the making. We’ll see though. In the meantime, I will be very happy to work on other pieces. I’m ready for a break from this one! 🙂

  3. Make sure to mention your research into the agent’s other clients to show that you did your homework ~ convince HIM/HER that you are not just looking for AN agent . . . you want HIM/HER to represent your work.

    Good Luck!

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/just-leap-and-the-net-will-appear/

    • Yes! It’s funny because this is when having that arduous, sometimes boring business background actually comes in handy. This is where I feel like I have skills that can set me apart. I view the pitch like a job interview, or trying to convince the Board that they need to approve a project I want to work on. Let’s just hope it really is like that!

  4. I wanted to leave a comment on your Organizing Your Life In One Week post . . . but the comments were “closed.”

    Enjoyed the piece. I’m a super big fan of clutter busting. It makes me feel alive and FREE!

    I started after reading Elaine St. James’ book, Simplify Your Life. Excellent tips for making lasting changes and creating the life you WANT to live.

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/simplify-your-life/

    • Yes, I’ve noticed that some of my older posts are now closed to comments. I’ll have to figure out how to change that. I don’t mind if someone leaves a comment years later. Oh well. Something to be figured out some other day…

  5. Julie- I’m like you. When do I stop editing and rewriting? I am constantly editing, especially when I get feedback from agents that suggest “this and that” after reading my MS, then I tend to want to go back and do “this and that”. As they say (not sure who) no book is ever written, only rewritten.
    I understand the editing of early drafts, but when do you leave the “last final MS” alone? I like that with writing we don’t have to be perfect in our first drafts. No one is ever going to read that but us! Editing and rewriting allows us to play with our characters, our word choices, our plot, setting, etc. In the end you should look at your book through the eyes of your readers, not the agent and not as the writer, but your readers.
    It’s nice to take solace that as writers we are not alone in our editing journey! Good Blog.
    Pam

  6. That’s a great point Pam. I was just talking about this on the pblitchat last night. Over-editing nothing worse. Will see if the readers view point works. Thanks!

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