FOR THE WRITERS: Stop Tinkering with Your Manuscript After You Query

E.S. Wesley
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E.S. Wesley

E.S. Wesley is a serial (or cereal) writer, mentor, and dabbler in whatever other creative endeavors tickle his fancy. He likes to write books with complicated plots and stuff.
E.S. Wesley
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Stop Tinkering with Your Manuscript After You Query and Move On

Seems like it’s query season for us writers lately. Everyone’s getting their manuscript out after various summer writing conventions, polishing up those synopses, and hovering over their email like a helicopter parent on the first day of school. We’re excited. We’ve worked so very hard on these manuscripts, and now that we’re trying to release them into the wild, we are terrified of what that means.

But let me help you out: what querying means is that you believe your manuscript is ready to be read by others. You believe—with confidence—that the query represents a finished work that will dazzle the agents you’re querying. You believe that the manuscript you’re querying is as near perfect as you can get it.

Or at least … you should.

Stop tweaking your manuscript after you query!

Stop tweaking your manuscript after you query!

I keep reading and hearing about other authors sending out their queries and then spending time in the manuscript again, tinkering and changing and augmenting words, characterizations, maybe even tiny plot details. And, once they’ve tinkered enough, they ask the agent if they can resubmit send the updated manuscript or pages.

Unfortunately, that means one of two things:

  1. You thought the manuscript was ready to query, but it really wasn’t. It was a premature query, and now you’re kicking yourself because you think you screwed up, your career is over, and all those agents are going to laugh you right out of your inbox. OR…
  2. Your manuscript is ready to query (for the most part), and you’re obsessing about it because it’s all you can think about. You’re overthinking it, and you just know that Ms. Mean-and-Nasty-Agent is going to see a comma out of place and toss your query on her burn pile that sources its heat from the fires of hell.

So, here’s how to handle this. If you chose #1, STOP QUERYING IMMEDIATELY and let the manuscript mature. Either keep revising, or leave it alone for a couple months while you write a new book, which will undoubtedly be a better book. Just make sure that whatever you’re sending sparkles BEFORE you send it, not after.

And, if you chose #2 … well, that query advice is almost the same. Basically, let the queries that are out there go through the process. If the agents (who are, for the most part, amazing and lovely people who you would love to have over for dinner) like it, things will move forward. If they reject it, then go back. See if you can make your manuscript better after some time away from it.

And …

… in the meantime …

Write that next book. Nothing will make an older manuscript better than writing a new one. Every time you engage in this creative process, you get better. I promise you, even the failed projects have their place in your career growth. I can’t stress this enough. No amount of looking at the same manuscript over and over again will ever amount to the benefit you will derive from writing a whole new one.

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