Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goober Writers Anonymous--Carol Riggs

It's the second week of GWA and today's poster is Carol Riggs.  I'll give you guys a second to check out her blog, Artzicarol Ramblings.  *Hums Jeopardy theme song*

Are you back?  Excellent!


Hi, I'm Carol Riggs. Here is my Goober-worthy tale of woe, a heart-wrenching tale of writerly anguish and remorse. (Kids, don't try this at home.) 

SETTING: The 1990s. My two daughters had become old enough to attend school, leaving me with free blocks of time. I had no job outside the home.

CHARACTER: Me. Mom, alone without kids! Neat! An art major in college, I had always loved to write, taking creative writing in both high school and college. 

PROLOGUE: I began writing stories, beginning with picture books and illustrating them, but after a while I decided I liked writing novels the best. I dutifully started sending out my manuscripts, joined a writer's critique group, and attended SCBWI conferences and retreats. I received a few no-thank-you nibbles of interest, but mostly, I amassed a whopping 300+ rejection letters.  

PLOT: I'd written one particular fantasy novel that had gotten an interested nibble, but no go. Bolstering my courage once again, I sent it off to a new publisher. Months later, to my wondrous surprise, I got a request for the entire manuscript and then an offer to revise according to the editor's suggestions. I was ecstatic, certain that this was my Big Chance, and that I was finally making progress in the publication world. I dropped everything except basic survival chores/functions, and threw myself 200% into the rewrite. 

Most of the suggested changes were minor and easily changed, but a couple were more hefty. I fleshed out the fantasy elements in the story, adding a whole magical thread. I trimmed and developed and added detail. I figured that if I really applied myself and jumped right into the revision, this editor would be pleased with my industriousness and amazing work ethic. She'd want to work with me and publish my novel if I showed I was a Serious Writer. (You know where this is going, don't you?)

CLIMAX: After almost two weeks of intensive work, I was pleased with the revision results; the novel was much improved. I figured in those two weeks, I had put in the same amount of revision work it would've taken someone who had a job outside the home 4-5 weeks. Proudly, I mailed my revision off, figuring the editor would be delighted with my speedy turnaround.

Not so. She was not impressed with my speedy turnaround. In fact, she wrote me a brief letter saying she had a policy of rejecting any revision that had a fast turnaround, on principle. She hadn't even read the manuscript. The revision I'd worked so hard on had been rejected without as much as a glance at one measly paragraph.

DENOUEMENT/EPILOGUE: Needless to say, I felt crushed! I'd had such good intentions, and felt the revisions she'd asked for hadn't required months of deliberation or rewriting. It was a lesson learned the hard way. A stronger novel in the end, yes, but I'd lost my chance with this editor/publisher.  

So, writer friends, if an agent or editor asks you to do a revision for them, don't ever whip something out without letting it set for a while…or without getting feedback from your critique group or online critters. Recently, I've read blog posts and articles on this subject. All give the same advice: Let the suggestions the agent or editor have given you sink into your brain. Mull them over. Don't necessarily start immediately. Take a while to contemplate your changes, then revise with care--and don't rush to send it off!

This is one of the reasons I am so glad we're doing this group.  I NEVER would have known not to send out my revisions as fast as possible!  Sometimes the best way to learn is by listening to someone else's mistakes.
Thanks so much, Carol!

Discussion:  Have any of you, dear readers, experienced something like this?  If so, was the agent as adamant about how long you took with your revisions, or were you only reprimanded?

Oh, and if you would like to learn more about GWA and maybe join the group to share your own story, click here.

~Emily White


  1. Well nothing like that has never happened to me, but only because I have never had the good fortune to have a request include revisions. This is a valuable lesson! Thanks so much for sharing Emily and Carol.

  2. Ugh. I'm just going to say it. "That is BS!" She should have at least read the revisions. If I were you, I'd resubmit in a month or two. Thanks for the heads up, though. I'll keep this in mind if I ever run into the same situation.

  3. Sking! That hurts.

    I would have done the exact thing you did, race to get the revisions done, except that when Ted Malawer from Upstart Crow came to our SCBWI conference last year he said about the same thing. He said it makes him mad when he spends hours or days making suggestions for revisions and then gets the revised MS back the next day. He wants them to take at least a few weeks if not months to make revisions. I've heard similar from other agents.

    I personally think that none of these people are taking into consideration the excitement, hope, and sleepless work that a writer will put into the revision. But agents and editors seem to have a different concept of time than we do.

  4. I'm with Katie (I seem to be agreeing with her a lot lately), although this is very interesting and useful information, I feel it's BS that any agent would reject revisions summarily based upon response time. That's whacked!

  5. I agree with Sondrae! Everything happens for a reason, and frankly, now I'm glad that particular editor didn't accept that particular novel. I think my writing is much stronger now, and I want my debut novel to reflect my BEST writing!

    Thanks for the sympathy, everyone, and I'm glad you can learn from my mistake rather than making it yourselves.

  6. thanks so much for sharing carol! i would have acted the exact same way as you! plunged in over my head and worked until the thing was finished. good to know that they not only tolerate a bit of a wait, they encourage it! thanks again!!

    (still though- that was SO wrong not to even look through it!!) :)

  7. Nancy--Oh no! That is so awful! :(

    Carol--Thanks again for guest blogging. This particular story is definitely one we can all learn from!

  8. I'm with Emily - I probably would have let the revision suggestions sit for a little while, but once I knew where I was going to go with it, my instincts would have been to whip that sucker right back to her as soon as I could. I wouldn't want to keep her waiting, you know?

    Now I know better! Thanks for sharing!


Yay! Comments! Oh, how I do love them! :D