Erika Wassall, The Jersey Farm Scribe here on…
Giving your Revision Wings!
I recently received an extremely insightful rejection –
Wait, wait!! First a big WHOoO-HooOOo for a personalized rejection!!! We can’t forget to Celebrate the Little Things!
So anyway, I received a very insightful rejection from an agent. They were complimentary of the writing style and concept. But they thought the end came together too easy. My main character, Bradley, had a problem throughout the book. And in the end, it was basically solved for him.
The book is called Got Your Nose! where the classic Dad-joke becomes a reality. The only ending I could really see was his Dad giving him back his nose.
His comment was that he was hoping that Bradley would be a part of the solution.
It was a really great comment. Specific. Helpful. Thoughtful. The kind of rejection every author hopes for!
But, while I am proud to say I was able to take my own advice and be happy when I saw that he had taken the time to comment, I have to admit that when I first read it, regardless of my great admiration for this agent, all reason was replaced with arrogance and my initial thought was… how would that even be possible??? Silly agent!!! What do they know???
Ummm… wait. I’m pretty sure that “what they know” is what editors are looking for, what books sell and what kids like.
And once I actually thought about it, I realized what perfect sense it made. Of course kids want to read books where the child solves the problem. Kids aren’t looking for more situations where their parents are in control. Most kids feel like their parents control EVERYTHING. The beauty of literature is that this is where THEY have the power.
But still I had more defenses all lined up and ready to go:
Well, sure it’s a great idea. But it doesn’t really work for THIS story.
I read the manuscript a few times, and kept telling myself that it’s not something I could really add in. I thought of simple ideas, like him grabbing the nose from his Dad’s jacket pocket, but none of them seemed very satisfying. I began to shrug it off as… well, it’s a good idea, and I’ll keep it in mind in the future, but I don’t think it really fits this THIS story…
When suddenly, I had a major realization.
Hello??!!! It’s MY manuscript. I can alter it so it DOES fit!!
Sounds so simple. But all too often I find myself avoiding making changes that don’t seem to “fit”. It initially feels too “forced” or maybe it contradicts with other aspects of the story.
We’re all attached to whatever we’ve written so far. We’re proud, as we should be, and it’s often hard to even imagine the piece any other way. The idea for a revision can sometimes feel like it’s a whole different manuscript.
But maybe that’s the manuscript that I was supposed to write.
Looking at my own story, a few lines here or there and Bradley can certainly become a part of how that darn nose ends up back on his face where it belongs. Maybe he finds it instead of having it given back to him, maybe he goes all the way to his dad’s work to get it.
Or even deeper, maybe instead of going to school that day like he does now, the whole sequence becomes about him looking for his lost nose.
I am the author after all. I can make decisions like that!!
I will probably do a few different re-envisionings and see which one I feel has the most potential.
But whatever Bradley ends up doing, I am confident it will become a much stronger story because of the comment from a rejection letter and my realization that it’s okay to let the revision grow!
And with that realization, my trepidation about the concept has morphed into excitement. And is there any more powerful transformation than that!
Our work is precious to us. And it should be. But re-writes are powerful, and taking a revision to the level it craves is important, even when it’s also somewhat of an intimidating concept.
But intimidating or not, the end result is a thing of beauty. And… yup, that’s right…
Our manuscripts are worth it!
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Thank you Erika for another great post. We all enjoy your posts.