Poison and Perfectionism

Poison and Perfectionism

A few weeks ago, I said that I was querying. That I’d finally overcome my perfectionism and constant editing to send out six entire queries, and was planning to send more. So here’s an update.

First off, I’ve had three replies, and they’ve all been rejections. I wasn’t too disappointed by the first two as they weren’t agents I was particularly invested in, but the third one was one I’d been hopeful about, so I was a little bit sad about that.

I was planning to send out more queries, but now I’m wavering, because I kind of want to rewrite the book. And not just, “I’ve decided these two chapters need work,” but a whole, big edit that will change things on a structural level. Which would mean putting querying on hold until I’m done. Since I really can’t justify putting that much time into writing until I graduate, that means not querying until August at the earliest, which isn’t at all what I’d planned.

This urge to edit comes from a revelation I had about a certain plotline, triggered — as with several plot points in this book — by news articles about Russia poisoning people. (See, it’s even vaguely topical.) Does the book work without these edits? Yes. Would it work better with these edits? Probably. I think it would be more psychologically interesting, more economically believable, and crucially, it would set up several plot points for the other two books I have planned for this trilogy. If this were a standalone, it might not be worth it, but the impact on its sequels makes me think it would be.

But I don’t have time to edit until mid June, and there’s a part of me that can’t help feeling maybe this wouldn’t make it better. Maybe I’m fiddling. I thought the book was ready; can’t I just leave it alone? If I had the time to edit now, I could try the new one while leaving the previous draft intact and if it didn’t work, I’d only lose a few weeks. But because of finals and how busy I am, deciding to try this rewrite means delaying querying by a substantial number of months, which makes it a higher risk proposition.

It’s a conundrum, and one I don’t really know how to solve.

This new plotline, though, has wormed its way into my brain. I found myself last night at 2am, hastily scribbling ideas because they were in my head and if I didn’t write them down I’d lose them. (Also because I’d directed my brain in that direction to avoid the existential dread that was creeping in, as it tends to do as 2am.)

From a flippant remark I made to a friend after reading about the poisoning in Salisbury recently has come a whole new aspect of the worldbuilding (which answers several questions I had about the economy). For context, a major plot point in this book came from the Litvinenko poisoning a few years ago, so while I would like it if fewer people got poisoned, at least some good is coming of these news stories.

My beta readers have had to put up with a lot of 1am posts like this.

The book is fine as it is. It works. But it could be better. It could be more detailed, more political, more grounded in the real world despite being set in a fictional city run by assassins. Or I could be fiddling unnecessarily, potentially making it worse by overcomplicating things. I can’t tell.

I don’t want to blow my chances by querying the book before it’s ready. If I could make it better, then I should do that first. But I don’t know if I can, or if I’m doing what I always do and letting the desire to edit get in the way of making progress.

Argh. This is tricky. And I need to decide — if I’m going to send out any more queries then I should get on with it. If I’m going to rewrite, I should sketch out the plot ideas I have so that by the time June comes around and my exams are over, it’s all ready for me. (I can already foresee myself trying to write alongside revision and I already hate myself for it.)

Anyone been in this position before and have any advice?

4 thoughts on “Poison and Perfectionism

  1. You could continue to query the book you have then redraft later; if someone likes the book as is, then you’re good; if they don’t then you do the redraft you were going to do and keep trying.

    1. I’m just concerned that if the book genuinely isn’t at its best right now, I’ll get rejected by everyone, and will have drastically narrowed my pool of people to query (since I wouldn’t be able to query the same ones again so soon).

  2. Wait. You’re definitely on to something here as far as the future of your trilogy. From what you’ve said about your new inspiration you’ve got a lot of work yet to do before your book will be ready to shop around. If by any chance you do get a positive response to your query and the book isn’t ready you’ll appear unprofessional. You need to send out queries when you’re convinced the book is the best you can possibly make it.

    I worked in publishing in the 1990s. Non-fiction, but the same principal applied. It was always easy to tell when someone had gotten ahead of themselves and sent out a book query before the book was ready.

    1. Thanks for the advice. I definitely HAD thought the book was ready, and still have the polished draft of the previous version… I just can’t help feeling the new one would be better. So it’s not that it’s not finished. It’s just that it could be MORE finished. If that makes sense.

      At the moment I’m making lots of notes and mindmaps and trying to figure out if my brainwave would actually work, plot-wise. It’s as close as I can get to experimenting with redrafting until my exams are over, really.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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