alexandra alger


The Risk of Over-Polishing

In researching agents online, I came across a comment by Aussie writer AJ Blythe that I saved because it was so smart. Responding to a post on BookEnds Literary’s blog about best times of the year to query, she wrote: “I think the best answer is to submit when your ms is ready. It will get read, whether that week or in 3 months, but it’s better to send when you are ready to send because otherwise you risk over-polishing, or not letting it go (and therefore not working on something new), or losing your nerve.”

She crystalizes my struggles with querying. I’s funny what happens once you set out to present yourself and your work to an agent. The hard work is supposed to be done—the writing, rewriting, polishing, and at last finishing a manuscript. It’s ready! But is it? The minute I start the process of querying, I begin to have doubts. All of a sudden the beginning is ALL WRONG. How could I have been satisfied with it, all this time? I change it. Is it any better? I can’t tell. I change it back. Over-polishing. AJ distinguishes between over-polishing and not letting go, but for me over-polishing is the essence of not letting go—and also losing my nerve, losing confidence in myself, in the work. After a few emails go out, I settle down. I begin to love my manuscript again. I’ll have to see whether AJ has anything wise to say about handling agent rejections.

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2 thoughts on “The Risk of Over-Polishing

  1. AJ Blythe on said:

    Hi Alexandra, how lovely to discover (belatedly) that my comment resonated with you =) I can give you my perspective on agent rejections – although I’m not sure what I say is wise!

    A rejection means you haven’t landed the right manuscript on the right agent’s desk at the right time. The wonderful thing about having a finished, polished manuscript is you can keep querying that baby until you have another ready to send. You won’t run out of agents!

    If you can keep querying after a rejection or 100 you will succeed. It’s those who give up who don’t. After all, the most painful thing to experience is not defeat but regret.

    So wallow for a few minutes. Sob your way through a box of tissues, eat a truckload of chocolate or pin the agent’s name to a dartboard. Once it’s out of your system find the next 5 agents on your list and try again. Never give up! Never surrender!

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