Gut Instinct: Paying Attention to Your Writing Hunches

One of the stories that Karen Boss of Charlesbridge told at the KS-MO SCBWI Advanced Writers Retreat was about sending out a rejection letter.  She e-mailed the writer, briefly explaining why the manuscript didn’t quite work.  She got a response.  “Thank you for your feedback on my manuscript.  That’s what I thought was the problem, too.”

The funny thing is that she’s received that kind of response several times.  Sometimes it is face-to-face at a conference critique. She’ll suggest that a writer should change something and they agree, telling her that they too spotted the problem.  Other times she gets this response following a rejection.

Why does she mention these responses?  What’s the problem with them?

It’s pretty simple.  If, as you finish up your manuscript, you have this niggling feeling that the setting is too generic or you need more beats of action, do it.  Fix it.  Rewrite your story.  Don’t wait and see if someone else notices the problem. This is especially true if your work is going to an agent or an editor.

You shouldn’t submit anything that isn’t as good as it can be.  That means fixing whatever is drawing your attention as wrong or even just not quite as good as it could be.

The exception to this is if you want to try something new.  It might be a new genre to you.  It might be something you’ve never seen done before and you just aren’t sure that it is going to work.  Try it and then take it to your critique group.  Admitting that you suspected there was a problem to your critique group is one thing. You can explain to them what you were trying to do and why.  They can help you see why it didn’t work and what might work better.

Saying something like this to an editor who might have published your work?  That’s something completely different.  If you see the problem, fix it.  Then submit your work.  It will greatly increase your chance of making a sale.



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