3 Things To Consider Before “Fixing” Your Writing

3 Things To Consider Before “Fixing” Your Writing

How Do You Please Everyone With Your Writing?

Spoiler Alert: You can’t.

I’m back in the query trenches again, alternately deciding that “this is the agent for me!” and “no agent will ever love me!”

So, while I’m sorting through agent profiles, trying to decide who might “swipe right” back at me (right’s the one where they’re interested, too? I don’t know these things), I see agents posting about what they don’t want.

And there’s this knee-jerk reaction, when I recognize a trope from my writing in their ‘no thank you’ list. The feeling of, “Oh! I can fix it! And then you’ll love it!” Especially when you see so much of your story in their ‘please send me’ list.

But before you go an fix your story to appeal to that agent, you need to stop and consider a few things.

3 Things to Consider before “Fixing” Your Story:

1. Are there other Agents looking specifically for that trope?

If so? Well, there you go!

Just because one agent pooh-poohed the trope you played with in your story, didn’t mean every agent out there was shying away from it. Clearly, that agent just wasn’t the right match for you!

I know it can be hard to walk away from an agent that looks ideal!

You see them asking for X and Y, both of which your story does amazingly! And then you hit that “hard pass if the Manuscript does Z”. *insert screeching to a halt sound clip. And maybe a sad trombone noise*

It’s hard to stop yourself from justifying sending to them anyway. “I have everything they’re looking for,” you think.

Yes, but if you also have something in your manuscript that will make them auto-reject you, why set yourself up for failure?

You’ve heard the dating analogy. Everything else might be good, but if my date is looking for a partner who cooks, we’re not going to be a good fit.

You should be querying people who want what you have to offer, without that deal breaker.

2. Is Not Wanting That Trope A Trend?

Agents are people, and no two people are exactly the same. Which means they have different wants and needs.

If ONE agent talks about not wanting a specific trope, it can be hard not to start reading into what the other agents are saying. You start convincing yourself that the other agents were obliquely referencing that trope and that no one will ever want your novel.

Oh wait–that’s just me.

But EVERY story has its own tropes. It’s how you play with them, subvert them, or make them shine that makes your story unique.

Don’t immediately assume your story is broken! Look around at other agents, at other agencies. Look at what the editors are looking for and see if there’s a pattern.

If, and only if, you find a pattern of agents and editors saying specifically that they do not want this particular trope, that’s when you might think about looking at your manuscript.

3. How well integrated is this trope in your story?

Just because the publishing world isn’t in the mood for this trope, doesn’t mean there’s a problem with your story!

You have to think long and hard before removing a trope from your novel. Start by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Does it make sense for your story?
  • How will this affect your characters?
    • How much of their backgrounds, personality, and goals are influenced by this trope?
  • Will your story be worse off by taking it out?
  • How well did you write the trope?
    • Perhaps you’ve gotten to the heart of the trope and made it real and fully three-dimensional!
    • Perhaps you’ve subverted the trope, in an unexpected, but fascinating manner.
    • Perhaps you’ve played with the trope, in fun and exciting ways!

If you’ve taken the trope and made it yours, then leave it be!

What Happens If You Leave It In And The Trope Causes People To Reject It?

A – Maybe your story ends up being a ‘practice book’…

It’s still not a waste of time. No one tells the musician who practices their scales that they’ve wasted time.

B – Maybe you need to wait for trends to change.

Shelve this project for 6 months or 6 years, and then send it out to agents again.

Don’t Give Up Hope Before You Query

It could be that your take on this trope is just what the industry has been waiting for!


      1. I think we all go through this. I’ve contemplated changing entire character personas and histories because one person didn’t like it. Then realized that would have made it their story, not mine.

        Stay strong. You’ve got this! ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  1. You have to be willing to hear what you need–but you have to be true to yourself or there was no point to all those hours you devoted to writing your little ditty that you could’ve been sleeping, watching movies/TV, hanging out with friends, sleeping…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s such a tricky thing, this “balance” between what you as the author want to write, and what you think others will like. There’s that classic idea of “knowing your audience”, but understanding what several thousand people would agree on is a tall order.
    If I may, any chance you’d consider writing a piece on how you go about searching for and finding/identifying literary agents to approach?

    Liked by 1 person

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