Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Manuscript Wearing Sunglasses and a Hat That Won't Give Its Name

When I finished my novel last year, I rushed into my query with minimal research on the matter. As soon as I sent it to a small collection of agents, I knew I'd been hasty and that it wasn't the best example of my work. Kicking myself in the head, I set out to rewrite the query, and while I was at it, went through several rewrites of the novel itself. Both letter and novel are basically unrecognizable when compared to their original versions...so my question is, would it be a faux pas to query one or two of those agents again, say the ones that I was most excited about presenting with my work?
Depends. When you say "basically unrecognizable", do you mean "Oh, it's sooo different! The characters' motivations are completely changed! And that scene where Sam runs into Alexandra? Now Alexandra runs into Sam. And I took out like 15 adjectives!!"

Or do you mean unrecognizable? Because when the manuscript in my hand has a different title and different character names and roughly the same plot as the manuscript I saw four years ago, I recognize it.

9 comments:

Steve said...

I've seen at least one agent comment that after a sufficient period of time (sorry I don't remember how long - perhaps 6 - 24 months?) They would probably not remember the original submission in any case.

-Steve

myimaginaryblog said...

Perhaps the writer might also look into a second career as a gymnast or martial arts practitioner. Kicking one's self in the head is rather a feat of strength and flexibility.

Rider said...

Wait, seriously? Do you really think "Hey, I know this query. Didn't this very author submit to me four years ago?"? I could understand if it was something completely outrageous and original as to be memorable, but you must get tons of plot ideas that are all similar to each other.

Toni said...

Oh, so THIS is the one that creeped everyone out at Nathan Bransford's office!

Ivan said...

Surely a novel that is unrecognisable compared to the previous submission is a different novel. If you've written a different novel, then of course you can submit it to the same agents. But if it's a different novel I'd question why you even need to ask the question. Which sort of implies it isn't a different novel, just an edit of the previous novel.
I'm also fascinated by the idea that redoing a query letter can lead to a rewrite of the entire novel ...

Sarah Laurenson said...

I did query with the same manuscript twice. I also said in the second query that it was the same one I queried them with 8 months earlier and listed a few of the major changes (like POV) as to why it was very different. Plus I mentioned one part that was controversial in my critiques and said that was still there (in case it was the reason they said no the first time). I got a second request for a partial.

Lynn Colt said...

I did the same thing as Sarah (queried a heavily revised new version of a previously submitted manuscript); for the agents who'd requested a partial the first time, I told them that. For agents who hadn't, I just shot them the new and massively improved query letter. The worst they could say, I figured, was no again.

Two agents who'd previously said no requested a partial, and one who'd previously requested asked to see it again. So thoughtfully requerying can work.

Jille said...

Sarah & Lynn: I think the approach both of you took removes the "won't give its name" problem in this entry's title. I think being upfront about it is one thing: simply trying to sneak it by disguised as a brand-new project is another.

Anonymous said...

".... and roughly the same plot as the manuscript I saw four years ago, I recognize it."

I smiled when I read this.

I read thousands of screenplays a year. Even though I might not remember exact plot points, etc., I know when I've read something before.

Also, IDK how the book world works, but everything I read is logged in. When a writer submits something, they need to be aware, that SP is logged into a database (someone's) and leaves a footprint. Even if it's ten years ago, it's left a mark. This doesn't disqualify something that's been rewritten (in this instance, I think the film world is very different from the book world which seems more, one shot only, partly because SPs take an hour to read and can be given coverage {& comparision coverage})

re: the strategy of repitching agents (esp. since they tend to have good databases, if only for logistical purposes), seems dicey. I would think pitching a new round of agents might be a better bet.