Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and ...

By Ad Hudler

True Story, sad beginning, happy ending.

Finished my first novel, Househusband, and tried to pitch it to an agent I'd met at The Sewanee Writer's Conference (Incidentally, this is a great conference to attend when you're seriously ready to sell a book … lots of great networking goes on here.)

Agent said, "Love the idea, too episodic."

So I rewrote it again, this time with what I thought was more plot.

Agent said, "Too episodic."

I rewrote it again.

Agent said, "Good luck."

More than a year has passed.

Finally, I contact agent Number Two, referred by a woman I jogged with while at the Sewanee Writer's Conference.

"Too episodic," she told me. "It needs … something."

"What?" I ask. "Just tell me and I'll do it."

"I'm not sure," she says, "but it's not ready. It needs ... something."

I rewrite AGAIN.

Agent #2 likes it a little better but still won't sign me on. "It needs something."

"What?!" I plead.

"Just ... something."

I rewrite it AGAIN, this time incorporating an entire new storyline dreamed up in one of my previously published short stories.

Agent #2 says, "Okay, I'll take it now, but don't expect anything big. It's tough out there."

Within 12 hours, we have five offers. The book ends at auction, and Ad gets a big fat six-figure advance.

So … don't give up, people. Rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. If someone says it needs to be rewritten, it probably does.

Ad Hudler's most recent novel, published by Random House, is "Man of the House." He blogs at and has an essay called "Tree Bitch," forthcoming in The Oxford American. He will be one of the featured authors at this year's Southern Voices event in Alabama.


Anonymous said...

Story of my life. I tend to write episodic too but then I got my hands on a few screenwriting books. Now everything goes into a three-act structure. Got an agent right a final re-write just like you.

Elaina M. Avalos said...

Great story. Encouraging to say the least.

JLC said...

I envy you your comments because they were the same. That gave you a direction to take on the rewrites. You must be pretty good to get even a one-word useful critique! Congratulations.