Like you’ve never heard that idea before. Here are three snappy little aphorisms that just fell out of my head:
Slow and steady win the race.
Good things come to those who wait.
Patience is a virtue.
Here’s a lesser know quote about patience: “You cannot make a souffle rise twice.” This one encapsulates more that the other three do not, that is, the idea that you only get one chance to get it right. It is more in line with the notion of the “one bite of the apple” and the singular opportunity we have to “make a first impression.”
Over the last many weeks, I have been working on a “Revise and Resubmit.” An R&R is the term of art in the literary/publishing world where a literary agent likes your work but that it is not “quite right” because of various inconsistencies. These are often plot arc issues, confusion over why secondary characters are taking up so much room if they are only secondary, consistency in the main characters.
When a literary agent likes the writing but thinks it needs to be tightened up, the suggestion will be made to do one of two things: 1) tighten it up; or, 2) understand this is a purely subjective business, change nothing, and look for a different literary agent who could very well love your story just as it is.
Three months ago, I heard back from an agent and chose Door #1. And now, I’m done. I’d like to send it off. Today. But I’m worried about whether it is really ready. Is there more I could do?
Based on the fact that I cut 8,500 words and ended with a word count 5,000 over where I started, the delta on that is 13,500 NEW words, i.e., 11%. I think it has improved by at least 11%. I cut out extraneous background, I deepened the inner narratives of the two main characters, I enriched the descriptions of the scenes where the main characters learned more about themselves and each other.
If I was willing to change 11% of the manuscript when tasked with an R&R, what might I do if I put it on the shelf and wait another month and go back to it? Maybe make it 11% better.
Not knowing whether to wait or full speed ahead, I asked a collection of authors (on a FB page) what to do. There were ones who said, “Send it in.” There were others that said, “Wait.” When I found myself agreeing with the sentiments from those advocating patience, I knew that they were only confirming what I already know I should do.
The only reason I’m not going to go a little bit crazy doing so is because I can see a qualitative difference in the story, and I like it better. Out of respect for something I like (it’s sort of taken on a life of it’s own), I’m going to offer it to some people to critically read: not for typos or subject verb agreement (because after many, many revisions, I think those are fixed) but for pacing and character development and general content.
If you’d like to be one of these final readers, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will print you a manuscript and mail it off. I only ask that you read it and give me feedback by June 1st.
Here’s the gist of the story:
Told in two alternating and distinct voices, MY PLUS ONE – complete at 116,000 words – is an exploration of the friendship between Calista Barone and Ray Lawrence, a pair who met a decade and half ago and have avoided falling in love with anything other their platonic relationship. MY PLUS ONE is a hybrid of literary fiction and commercial fiction.
Callie and Ray knew they would be taking “Augusts off” when they committed to careers helping others: Callie as an animal-behavioral psychologist, i.e., “pet whisperer,” and Ray as a psychotherapist to a more-pedestrian breed of clients, i.e., damaged humans.
Callie and Ray were about to plan out their August in Tanzania when the invitation to Ray’s sister’s wedding arrived – ten months early. So instead of Africa, the friends plan a month-long, cross-country road trip ending on the West Coast for the wedding.
Along the way, Callie and Ray banter with sexy strangers, commiserate with doomed beef cattle, find surprise in a singing dwarf, wonder over the world’s largest ball of twine, and debate what to do with an unwelcomed, yet friendly, leech. Their most significant discovery is Steinem: the forty-pound black dog with a white spot, left to fend for himself outside a convenience store.
For the course of the road trip, their stops along the way fill their mental photo albums leaving one last page for an unexpected announcement that will shake the foundation of their friendship and test the strength of their bond.