Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Q & A 117
When you or an agent provide commentary back to an author, how much revision by the author is going too far? Say the author makes all the changes and increases the number of words by 20 percent. That's significant. Would it cause trouble? Suppose the author added a new chapter what would be the reaction? OR suppose the author found a plot twist to change the ending. Is that asking for trouble? Or will the agent or editor be happy with the improved story?
It would be unusual for an agent to ask you to make wholesale changes unless she were already YOUR agent. In which case you may consider her your teammate and ask her all of these questions, and she will get back to you immediately, or whenever she feels like it.
If an editor has not agreed to buy your work, and suggests changes, I doubt she'd be bothered by an additional chapter. If the work needed only minor changes, she'd buy it first to be sure she got it, and then request changes--or make them herself.
Of course, a 20% increase in length is a lot of words if we're talking about a novel. If an 80,000-word novel truly needs another 16,000 words, it's hard to believe it's getting much interest. A few plot holes is no big deal; 16,000 words is a plot canyon.
If you've been asked to make some changes, and those changes don't include changing the ending, I'd hold off on that. If Margaret Mitchell was asked to add a couple chapters to Gone with the Wind, I'm guessing she did so, and I'm guessing she did so without the South winning the war.