You can sweat the small stuff, just don't tell me about it

Dear Miss Snark,

I recently heard back from an agent I querried over 6 months ago who requested the first 3 chapters of my novel. (She apologized for the delay, saying she was only recently taking on new clients.)

However I've changed the novel considerably since that query letter was sent out so many moons ago. {The changes came after multiple passes by agents, as well as after my own epiphanies about how to improve it.) The novel still centers around the same main character, starting from the same situation, and essentially following the same character arc. But the path the character follows to his destination is markedly different, and the novel is more of a romantic comedy now. (instead of what?--thriller? dyspeptic parody of Jane Austen?)

Which do I send? The original version only? The new version only, w/ a letter explaining the change? Or do I send both with an explanation? Or would an agent view such a writer as wishy-washy?

I don't care how you got to good, I only care if you've arrived.
Thus, send your best work (in this case the new version), no explanations required.

Explanation of the changes you've made is akin to saying "gosh you look nice" to a friend and then getting chapter and verse on the gym regimen. I don't want to see you sweat; I don't want to hear about your sweating; I want only to gaze admiringly on your abs of steel.

If you just can't bear to let your improvements go unremarked, say very very briefly in your cover letter that you've been fine tuning your chapters between the time you first wrote and now when you are sending.


Bina said...

Turns out the gals at Go Fug Yourself love George too:


Chumplet said...

Sounds eerily similar to my own experience with an agent I admire. Unfortunately, she already had the original partial and read that one. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

Good advice.

ORION said...

Another take on this is the fact that many writers submit a project too early in the process. I remember the last page of the first draft of my first novel was hardly printed out before I was querying. My published friends said, slow down, let it sit, and edit more. I was convinced it was as good as it could be.
I learned.
Work can always be edited and tweaked. I know I am driving my agent crazy now with "even better versions" of the story she loves.
Miss Snark is SO right.
No one cares.
It is hardly likely that it is so significantly better than the original that it would make the difference between an agent signing you or not.
If by some chance it is - maybe you queried the project before it was ready.
The good news is you can learn from this and at least agents are asking for your partials!

type, monkey, type said...

I think the poster is worried that the query she sent somehow misrepresented the current project--because "what it's about" has changed substantially.

Don't bother the agent with "are you sure you want it, because now it's X" sorts of announcements. My guess is, even if the pages are significantly different than the query letter--if they are GOOD, no problem. If they aren't good (or to her taste) clarifying things won't make her like them more.

Just send it. Maybe she will have forgotten about the query letter by the time she gets around to reading it.

Jane said...

Of course she will have forgotten about the query by then. She will have been reading other stuff for months.

Jane Yolen

Anonymous said...

Agents know writers tinker with their stuff constantly. Hemingway said he finished his novels, and never looked at them again because he couldn't help improving on the construction - not the story just the occasional sentence or two. And remember this is in the days when to change a sentence meant retyping a whole page.