Friday, December 3, 2010

How Much Is Too Much?

Rewrites that is...
What would you do?
A few months ago I wrote a book and subbed it to one of my publishers. All names are being withheld for obvious reasons. Said publisher wrote back a few weeks later that they really liked the story, but would I mind losing the first few – okay five pages. Also could I make some minor changes to the next twenty pages to leave the reader guessing as to the heroine’s guilt in a certain situation? Leave them guessing.
I liked the second idea. I felt it would make a more interesting read, but I was uncertain about cutting all five pages. I felt the reader learned about the heroine and her goals, motives and reasons for some of her actions.
I made ALL the requested changes and resubbed.
A few more weeks go by and I receive another nice letter. This is really good, but not quite there yet. If you could just add a little to the beginning to show the readers her motives and reasons for acting in particular ways that would be great.
Hmmm, I thought I’d done that originally.
I mulled the ideas over and even brainstormed with a writer friend. She made some great suggestions and offered to read the book to see what might be needed. She returned with, “I thought it was going to be awful and need lots of work, but this is fantastic AS IS.”
I thanked her and explained what they were looking for now. Again she tossed some ideas my way and I took them to heart. I wrote up a brief summary and sent the ideas off. They liked it, but maybe do it this way instead, I was told.
Finally I asked my writer friend to look at the original version. Deep down I kept coming back to this copy. Not sure why, but it was a gut feeling.
She read it and loved it. She got what made my heroine tick. She understood her motives for doing certain things and she related to her. She was drawn into the story. She felt one of my other publishers would jump on the chance to publish this story.
Now I’m torn. I’ve invested a lot of time with the first publisher, but yet, I’m growing uncomfortable to the changes. I feel like I’m losing “my” story and writing someone else’s. Believe me, I’m far from one of those diva writer’s who refuse to make changes. I’m probably the opposite and a little na├»ve. I tend to make all the suggested changes, per my editors.
This time I’m having too much difficulty doing that.
So do I dig in my heels and submit this story to one of my other publishers or do I kept brainstorming until I get it “right” in their eyes.
Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I decide in the coming weeks!
Have a great weekend!


  1. Hi Amber,

    This a very interesting blog. I am looking forward to reading the outcome. Wish you luck and I'll send up a prayer for you. Great blog!



  2. I think ultimately you answered your own question, Amber. You went with your gut. We all get too close to our stories and don't see problems sometimes because we have all the answers in our heads. Editors should be there to help guide us but the story is still your own. So, you took what you thought was valid and reasonable until the story didn't seem to be yours any more. I think you made the right call.

  3. If you truly don't think the changes will improve the book even after a cooling off period to think it over, I don't believe you should agree to do them. That said, I agreed to deliver significant revisions with one of my books--much more extensive than what you're talking about here--but I thought the suggested revisions were brilliant...And I had a signed contract. If I'm committing to that much work? I want the publisher to make a commitment to me as well. 'Gut your book and we'll think about offering'? Er...No.


  4. I've been in your position, Amber. Go with what feels right and fight for the story YOU wrote and belive in.

  5. Hiya Amber!

    I've been through similar and have made suggested changes, some I liked, some I didn't, but in the end the book gained a new angle, one I liked, so I was happy with it. However, when suggestions start making you wonder if your original story was wanted or if your publisher wants something else entirely--maybe a whole different book!!--you have to sit back and think: I liked this how it was in the first place. There were reasons I wrote it this way. My gut tells me to keep it this way.

    Go with your gut. What one publisher dislikes another will love.


  6. I've just seen this comment from Kari: 'Gut your book and we'll think about offering'?

    God no! Revamp the book and still risk a rejection? No damn way!


  7. This is a hard call. If you feel very strongly about the way you had it originally, perhaps you should sub it somewhere else. If the new publisher's feedback is the same, then the mss might need to be changed given the consensus.

  8. I'm with Natalie on both notes above. She's absolutely correct.

  9. I don't see what it'd hurt to shop around at other places before doing all the changes you don't want to do. I've done so many overhauls for publishers only to get more rejection that I'm totally into seeking elsewhere. There's more than one fish--er, publisher--in the sea!

    But overall, you must too what's right for the story, whether than means standing firm to AS IS or changing!!

    Good luck.

  10. I'm in a similar situation where I'd written a book with one focus, and an editor came back with a "If you'd be willing to do X,Y,Z, I'd like to see it again." The changes moved the focus of the book from an urban fantasy (plot-driven, bedroom door closed) to a paranormal romance (character-focused, bedroom door open). I decided to revamp the first hundred pages and see how it felt, and had to admit I really liked the new direction. That, plus the fact I'd REALLY like to work with this publishing house, made it worthwhile for me, although I have no guarantees they will offer a contract (it's on her desk now). I think it has to be on a case-by-case basis, though, with lots of thought: Will changes make the book sell better in the editor's eyes? WHY is she requesting these changes? Can you talk to her and hear her reasoning? But at the end of the day, your name will be on the book and you have to be comfortable with it.

  11. I'm with the majority, sweetie. If you feel as if the story is no longer 'yours', then go with your gut and resubb it somewhere else.

    I just went through the same torment last week, over a line I knew in my heart was the right way to word it; editor wanted it a different way. I slept on it; consulted my old editor and another writer; they agreed with me. I emailed her a note, saying I'd take the heat if anyone complained. The line is now the way I wanted it.

    And this book is also the one editors rejected everywhere. But in the end, persistence paid off.

  12. I agree with everyone on this one. Once it becomes a totally different story it's no longer YOURS. Send it elsewhere and tell the story your way.

  13. I've gotta agree with the majority here. If it doesn't feel like your story anymore, it's really not. :( Go with your gut. Sending you big hugs.

  14. As many as it takes until your happy with it. If that certain publisher isn't then go look else where until you find the one that is the right fit for your work. Don't destroy your dream of it for what a Publisher says. Don't be afraid to stick close to what you believe is right for your baby. If we all start bending to Publishers 'ideas' then the writing world is really in trouble.

  15. I've been there with the asking for changes. I found them asking for major changes before even offering a contract to be kind of presumptuous, but because I saw validity to them, I made the changes and tried again. When they asked for second changes, I asked if I was getting a contract or not because I wasn't going to change my work to suit them if they weren't going to take it. I was assured there would be one, so I made the changes and the next day did get the offer. It's a very personal decision and I think you're being smart to let it lie for a little while before making a decision. Good luck!!
    Steph Beck

  16. Amber, I have faith you'll be able to pull this one out of the fire, and do what's right for the story.
    That old cliche, too many cooks ruin the sauce, applies to writing big time.
    XXOO Kat

  17. Ah yes, for every vision there is an equal but opposite revision. I guess for me it's what's at stake. If we are talking a publisher that pays nothing up front and making changes that cut into the muscle of the book I'll stand my ground, if we're talking multi-million movie rights with Paramount or a three book deal with Viking, I'm the town ho!

  18. Hi Amber,

    Caught your promo for this and had to see what was up. This really is a tough call. My first thought was, did you get a new editor?

    If not, ask her/him what the heck is going on.

    If she liked the original story, why is she so eager to change what seems to be some fairly major things. The beginning of a book is pretty darned important, so I'm going to assume you gave it a great deal of thought before sending it in. Changing minor elements isn't unusual, but to go back and forth asking you to alter things, it just doesn't feel right to me. It's almost like the editor isn't sure what she wants you to do.

    I'm going to say go with your gut feeling. Send it back to editor number 1 and suggest that this is the final version. If the publisher wants it, you'd be willing to do some very minor fixes, underline minor there, but you're not going to revise it again. If they don't want to contract it, thank her for her time and send it somewhere else. Big thing here is, be extremely polite and professional.

    Good luck and I'll be back to see what you decide.


  19. This is a hard call Amber. But it seems to me you've already answered your own question when you it didn't feel right. Good luck.

  20. Listen to your friend and your heart. You'll make the right decision.

  21. LOL @ Mark's if we're talking multi-million movie rights with Paramount or a three book deal with Viking, I'm the town ho!


  22. OMG! Thanks so much for everyone stopping by and commenting. I'll be considering all the thoughts and advice expressed here today.

    Mark - I love your comment! I'd be the town ho too! LOL

  23. I think that you should go with your gut and shop the story around. Ultimately, it is your story. You get to decide what to do with it.

  24. Loved Mark's comment:-)

    That said, I think you have to go with your instinct (heart). It won't lead you astray.

  25. Excellent advice! When it's not your vision any more, it's time to put the brakes on.