What to do with an R&R

You’ve checked your email and received something unusual—it’s not a rejection, but it’s not an offer of representation either. They’ve given you detailed feedback (yay not a form!) and said something along the lines of: while I cannot offer at this time, if you’re open to revising, I’d be happy to read the revision.

Yay! Yes? Meh? Boo? What is this strange creature?

That’s a Revise & Resubmit. People have called it a slow-no, but frankly I don’t like that term. *He’s only mostly dead Princess Bride gif* This is more of a second chance.

So… what now? *Finding Nemo gif where they’re floating in plastic bags*

First, congratulations. This is a step in the right direction. R&Rs take TIME and agents are BUSY. No’s are quick and dirty. You’ve shown potential they believe in enough to guide. That’s great!

What you DON’T do is move commas around and send it back in a day. Understand that if it were just a comma problem or rewording a couple of sentences they would’ve offered rep. Generally, deep revision takes a month or more.

Well, okay, but you may not have done a serious revisions before, so, here are my tips for any major revision:

  • Park your feelings—this isn’t an affront to you. This is our art. If you think your MS is perfect as is, go ahead and put it on Amazon or continue to query. Either way, you need to establish some distance between yourself and your work, otherwise every single negative thing will hurt. That’s no way to live.
  • Print and read the email—sounds basic but really read it.
  • Go to sleep—it’s vitally important to sleep on it. See what strikes you the next day. Some suggestions/comments you will agree with, others you won’t, and it’s amazing how The Muses work overnight to give you story ideas.
  • Reread the email—make notes this time.
  • Consider–think about where you are in the process- if you’ve just started querying vs. you’ve been at this for six months. Is this an agent you’d sign with? Do you, on the whole, agree with the feedback? If yes, read on. If no, keep querying. Sometimes your gut instinct is correct.
  • Plan—now you’re ready to come up with a battle plan. Bounce ideas off writer friends. Plot out your scenes, list out your character traits. Look up the Three Part and Four Part story structure and see which appeals to you. The most common errors are pacing/plotting or voice/characterization—make sure you know what those are. Look up beat sheets, Anatomy of a Story, Bird by Bird. These are resources that will help.

Note: don’t email your plan to the agent. Respect their time. You can thank them and say you’ll work on it. Maybe ask a clarification question.

Now it’s time to work.

  • Break it into pieces—never stare at an entire project *Jurassic Park flashlight gif*. Nothing good comes from that. Take it page by page.
  • Set goals—you can revise an 80,000 word MS in a month by revising an average of 10 pages a day. If you’re working full time on top of writing this is A LOT. Five pages may be more your speed and that puts you at 2 months which is right around where you want to be.
  • Self-care—get snacks, water, and whatever else you need. Go for walks. Take breaks when things start to blur.

Pro tip: if you feel like you can’t cut something because you LOVE it—put it in a deleted scenes folder. Readers always love extra scenes. Great for your site and future fan base.

Once you think you’re done—send it to a critique partner and ask for brutally honest feedback (someone catching typos isn’t helpful). If they mention the same issues the agent did, you have more work to do. If not, you’re ready to return it to the agent. Reply to the R&R itself.

The probability of going from an R&R to an offer is wholly dependent on the writer. And there are no guarantees that the agent will move forward with you. But by following these steps I can guarantee you’ll improve your craft. Good luck!

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