Tackling an R&R

I had my first R&R experience this year and it was incredible. Yes, initially I was freaking out for days and months on end. But then it clicked. And it was glorious. I wouldn’t take back any moment of stressing out about it because I needed all of that to happen in order to make the MS that I have today. So if you’ve just received a Revise & Resubmit request and decided to take it on, this is for you.

Give Yourself Time To Freak Out

So…you’ve got an R&R. You’re on the right track and an agent believes in you and cares about your work. There’s proof in your inbox. Progress! Time for a mini victory dance!

You know that an agent took the time out of their busy schedule to invest in your work in hopes that you could take your potential and with some guidance, make your MS shine. They really don’t want to pass. And you really don’t want to let them down because they are actively rooting for you to get it right. That hope? It’s tangible now. It’s real. Oh God, do I have what it takes to make the changes? To ace the changes? Am I good enough? Do I follow directions well? Who am I to write this book? Who do I think I am, I can’t do this. Can I do this? I can do this. How am I going to do this? Where do I even start?

Ask all of the questions that you need to ask of yourself and your work. Just let it out. Sweat out the fear and the doubt and don’t feel guilty if it takes a few months to make that happen and to let the agent notes settle in your brain. If an agent has asked you for an R&R, they have already shown you that they are willing to wait for you to get it right. So take a moment to step back and freak out and be afraid. And then be ready to be pushed to write afraid…

Find Your CP Bae Who Will Help You Keep It Together

Tell your CP about your R&R in the beginning so that they can be your cheerleader and all that you need them to be as you gear up to and finally dig into your revision…

My texts to my CP usually went like this: Can I call you about something really quickly?

What we both knew I really meant was this: I am having an existential crisis and I need you to talk me down right now! Right this instant. Now. Please and Thank you.

As you know, Writer’s Block Party is a CP group. I’ve found that for me, I gravitate towards certain CPs within the group for certain projects. Whether you’re part of a CP group, simply have multiple CPs, or have one CP but are looking for another…find the CP who believes in your book, in your vision, in you, can challenge you beyond what you could have ever dreamed to ask for, and is open to being your bookish therapist for the next few months or year it will take to get this R&R done.

I’ve called my CP on multiple occasions, scatter brained and feeling overwhelmed and defeated both before and during R&R revisions. I never did that before I got an R&R. An R&R may make you do things that you typically wouldn’t do but roll with it because it may help ease your anxiety. It did for me. I can’t thank my CP enough for her patience during this time, her endless encouragement, and for repeating the same notes to me over and over again in dozens of different ways before it would finally click in my brain and I could move forward in revisions. Find your ride or die CP for the R&R MS and for funsies, ask them how they’d like to be addressed in the acknowledgments should it come to that.

Take Your Time & Make A Plan

Do not rush the revision. Do not do your manuscript and yourself a disservice by speeding through your second chance. You’ve already been pulled over to evaluate your choices. So get back on the road with caution and give your every move deep thought. Do you have the ability to slow down and revise the journey so that we can find Hogwarts together? This is what the agent is asking you.

Taking it a step further…you are the map but the agent is Marauder’s Map. So where are we going now? Don’t be intimidated by the notes. If you need to break it down and tackle the surface level notes first, gradually working up to the more challenging notes (or the reverse), do it. Do what you need to do. If your vision for the book does not align with some of the notes that you were given, you don’t have to follow the notes and compromise your vision. Remember what I said in this post about taking the meat and tossing the bones.

In my case, I received multiple non-exclusive R&Rs so I had a number of notes to work with and compare. My thought process was:

1) Which of these notes do I connect with and will drive me the most? Meaning: Which agent sees the vision for my book and is the most passionate about taking my vision to the next level Not Meaning: Which of these notes is easiest to fulfill to get me signed?

2) In all of these notes, what are all of the agents picking up on that I so very clearly did not pick up on (or thought was a small thing that I could fix later but it turns out it’s a big thing that I need to fix now before I can move further with this project professionally)? If everyone looking at your work is pointing out the same thing, clearly, there’s a problem and you need to get on it. You don’t even have to take their suggestions on how to fix it (if they’ve given suggestions). As long as you understand the underlying issue and can come up with a compelling solution that will make your book better, that’s what matters.

When it came time to get down to business, I would split screen in Scrivener the R&R notes with each chapter that I was revising, so that I could see at all times what revisions I was working towards. The finish line was always in sight. That’s what worked for me. Find what works for you. My point here is to read the R&R notes multiple times throughout revisions so that you have clarity, stay on course and stay focused.

My plan of attack was to revise according to the R&R notes, read through and revise again based on new notes that I created for myself, conduct a final read through (aloud), send the R&R to my CP, revise the R&R based on CP notes, and repeat the last two steps as needed. Find the process that works for you.

Don’t Expect to Jump the Line

Just because the agent asked for the R&R, especially if it’s a non-exclusive R&R, it doesn’t mean that you jump to the front of the slush pile. The only people in the slush pile who jump to the front are people with offers of representation, so don’t get it twisted. Send your R&R off and approach it as if you’re in another round of querying, because you are.

Apply the same waiting period for the R&R as you did for querying if you’ve been asked to re-query with the R&R or the amount of time stated on the agency website for requested material if you’ve been asked to send it as Requested Material. But do not expect to have you manuscript read in a week because while this is possible, it’s not usually the case. So be prepared to wait.

Take a Moment to Be Proud

Your R&R may still lead to a rejection, even a rejection in which the agent says they loved what you did in the revisions. Reading is subjective. And even when an agent does love your work, they may have to come to the difficult realization themselves that they are not the best fit to champion the book, especially if you do get an offer and they learn who else has offered. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and writers are not the only ones acknowledging this in this process.

No agent is better than an agent who cannot do enough for your work and it might not be something that you want to hear when you feel like you are so close but it’s true.

Because of all of this and any number of behind the scenes factors, it is so important to understand that no matter what the result of your R&R is, your writing is so much stronger in the end. So take a moment to be proud of the work that you put in. Committing to growing as a writer will take you farther than you could have ever imagined, no matter what path you go down.

No matter what happens with your R&R, you are a better writer now than you were the first time you sent your work out. And you know that you have what it takes to step up and do better. So keep at it and be kind to yourself because writing is revising and you my friend, are a writer.

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