Don’t be a Fool: Query, Rewrite and Ninja Edit

 Posted by on Mar 19, 2014 at 8:59 AM
Mar 192014
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~ Don’t be a Fool: Query, Rewrite and Ninja Edit ~

vintage typing class 1930s 1940s










The Torture of Querying

It struck me that most of the blogs out there for writers are pushing self-publishing. Heck, I’m going to jump in with a short story collection, but am still on the fence about self-publishing the novel. Especially when gurus like Hugh Howey are posting impressive stats for Self-publishers. Why would I be on the fence? What could I possibly get out of the torture of querying? I’ll tell ya.

As a newbie novelist I thought my novel was  killer diller at 170,000 precious words. It was my third or forth draft and many chapters had been through a writer’s workshop. It wasn’t until I started querying that it dawned on me: I need to edit more. One very generous agent said, “Are you planning on making this into two books?” Translation: it was too long. And it was.

It started at 170K, then I cut it to 150K, and thought I couldn’t cut anymore. Then another agent said, “one of the story lines (It has a parallel story with two characters and plot lines), is too slow.” I cut some MORE. Yup. Got it down to 140K. I thought I was in business and mind you, I’ve had about a 1 out of 3 request for partial or full manuscript in my query adventure, but NO “Yes, we want to rep you.” I would not have known this if I had not queried my novel. Don’t be afraid of the rejection, embrace the criticism.

1940s 1950s Ninja











Ninja Edit

Then, this year’s Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest came out with a new LOWER word count. I thought I couldn’t possibly cut more. “It would ruin the flow. If I cut more, readers won’t get the world I’m trying to create.” Have you ever said this to yourself? Guess what? I could. You can. I’d just finished reading Stephen King’s “On Writing” and was on an edit roll. I cut it down to 125K. And who knows, there may be more cuts that can happen. I stopped saying to myself, “I can’t edit any more it would hurt the atmosphere and integrity of the story.” Each time I cut, the story got better. I encourage writers to ninja edit!

Tense? Don’t be afraid

I had been reading a lot of Young Adult Fiction when I dove into my first novel and thought first person, present tense was the best way to tell my story. Maybe not. I had submitted a short story, written in first person, present tense, to my Writer’s Group and they blasted it. They loved the story, they HATED present tense. Now to be fair, they’re of an older generation and the phenomenon of present tense writing is pretty young. I like it and kept it for that short story. But it got me thinking. Would my novel be better served in a different tense? So, I did an experiment, I rewrote the first three chapters in:

  • First person, present tense
  • First person, past tense
  • Third person, past tense

30s 40s woman gorgeous typingI sent them out to a variety of different aged beta-readers, from nineteen to seventy year-olds. I believe my primary market to be New Adults, but see a secondary market in baby-boomers and nostalgia. If these readers are annoyed with first person, present tense, it would limit my chance for a larger readership. The response was overwhelming, while the younger generation had no problem with any of the tenses, the older generations chose third person, past tense. I myself was surprised to find I liked it and it solved a few point of view problems I was struggling with. Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to completely change your POV or Tense!

Query, Rewrite and Ninja Edit

If you’re at all on the fence about self-publishing I strongly encourage you to query. You will find out a lot about yourself, and your novel, and an added bonus of thickening your skin, which you’ll need no matter which route you go. Don’t be afraid to rewrite your masterpiece and open yourself up to possibilities. Finally, when you’re done with your Ninja edit, seek a professional editor like Candace Johnson, BEFORE you query or self-publish.


Do you have any query experiences you want to share? How did you get over the fear of rejection? Have you done any major rewrites to your novel? What’s your favorite tense to write in?

Tam Francis, authorTam Francis is writer, blogger, swing dance teacher, avid vintage collector, and seamstress. She  shares her love of this genre through her novels, blog, and short stories. She enjoys hearing from you, sharing ideas, forging friendships, and exchanging guest blogs. For all the Girl in the Jitterbug Dress news, give-aways, events, and excitement, make sure to join her list and like her FB page! Join my list ~ Facebook page


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  6 Responses to “Don’t be a Fool: Query, Rewrite and Ninja Edit”

Comments (6)
  1. I second Anne’s comment: You’re on your way to becoming a professional author! Querying agents and editors and actually incorporating useful advice is such a smart move. And thanks for the shoutout—I’m grateful. I must say, though, my job is easy when I have great writing like yours to work with!

    • Thanks for the kind words and the visit! Its been a wonderful blessing to me you and others through the internet. Its a magical time to be a writer!

  2. Ditto Annerallen’s comments.:-)

  3. You’ve come to some wise conclusions here, Tam. Sounds as if you’re now on your way to becoming a professional author. People who self-publish first novels rarely reach professional status. They keep making the same mistakes over and over. Self-publishers who are super-successful almost all went through the query process first. Think of it as free school! :-)

    • Thank you. I’m hoping my experience might help someone else. Luckily there are great blogs out there like yours, Kristen’s, Hugh’s to help guide. I try not to be redundant ;) I think its so hard to “listen” and lower your ego. Everyone wants to be the “exception.”

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