Revision Week: Nathan Bransford


Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow and Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe, the first two novels in a middle grade series about three kids and their planet-hopping adventures. He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010, but is now a social media director and the writer of the popular blog about writing and publishing,

*After Nathan’s interview are instructions for entering today’s Free Full Manuscript Edit Giveaway.

How many drafts does it typically take before you feel confident about the character and story choices you’ve made?

This is a tricky question for me actually because I tend to edit as I go and don’t typically go through discreet drafts. But the novel is usually done for me after the third or fourth major overhaul.

Which draft typically gets shown to your editor?

Whatever draft it is where I can’t bear to look at it anymore and have exhausted every possible idea.

How much revising happens after the editor sees that draft?

It depends on the book, but usually two major rounds of revision.

Do you use critique partners?

No, I don’t show it to anyone before I send it to my editor. I’m fortunate to have a really fantastic editor, Kate Harrison, who helps me mold the book into a much better form once I’ve gotten as far as I can go on my own.

As an agent, did you ever work through revisions with authors before submitting them to publishers?

Definitely, I was a very hands-on agent. I always thought it was important to make sure the manuscript was as good as possible before going out to editors.

Do agents work through revisions with writers before agreeing to represent them?

It depends on the agent. When I was an agent I preferred to work with authors on an exclusive basis but without an offer of representation in place. That way we could both see if we were happy with how the revision process was going and our working relationship and formalize the relationship once we were confident in the manuscript. But situations vary.

Can you share an experience of having a story problem you didn’t think you could solve but eventually did?

When I started Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe I had this particular opening that was how I had always envisioned beginning the novel. But when I wrote it out and sent it to my agent and editor… it just didn’t work. I had to completely re-imagine the opening and start over from scratch. It was daunting at the time and I had to kind of take a deep breath and regain my confidence, but it was definitely the right choice. The revised opening is much stronger and I’m so fortunate I had an opportunity to take a new approach. (Watch the Jacob Wonderbar trailer here.)

What’s the most drastic revising experience you’ve been part of?

I had one client where I advised her to completely change the genre of her novel and revise the plot to match. It was a ton of work for the author but it worked! The new version of the novel ended up selling and doing really well. Sometimes at the heart of a draft there’s a great novel that needs to be brought to the surface and polished. (Hear Nathan’s thoughts about “pitching,” videoed at the 2010 San Miguel Writer’s Workshop here.)

How do you know you’ve got the final draft?

When my editor says it’s done.


The Editor is giving away a FREE FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT of your manuscript. The edit will be a “Substantive Edit,” in which the author receives general feedback about the manuscript’s overall pacing, organization, narrative voice, plot development/narrative arc, characterization, point of view, setting, delivery of background information, adult sensibility (children’s books only), and the synchronicity of age-appropriate subject matter with target audience, as The Editor determines appropriate and necessary after reviewing the entire manuscript. It is not a word-by-word, line-by-line “Line Edit.”

Here are the rules:

  1. Your manuscript can be of ANY GENRE or CATEGORY (for adults or children, fiction or non-fiction), including picture books.
  2. Your manuscript must be COMPLETE and SHALL NOT EXCEED 90,000 WORDS. In the case of a picture book entry, the manuscript cannot exceed 7 double-spaced, 12-pt font pages.
  3. Deadline: MIDNIGHT tonight, March 10, 2012, PST.
  4. Winner will be randomly selected using and announced on March 11, 2012, in the comments section and on the Facebook page, and the winner will be notified directly via email.


One entry –  SEND EMAIL to using the “Write to The Editor” button at the top of the blog or by clicking here. Type “Free Full MS Edit Giveaway” in the subject line. In the body of the email, include the TITLE of your manuscript and YOUR FULL NAME. (If you have any difficulty with the contact button, send an email entry directly to Do not attach or embed any part of your manuscript in the entry.

Bonus entry – SUBSCRIBE. subscribers get a bonus entry by sending a second email with “Subscriber’s Bonus Giveaway Entry” in the subject line and your title and full name in the body. (Note: the Editor will verify!) Not a subscriber yet? Then subscribe now by clicking on the “Subscribe” button at the top of and then email your second entry.

Extra bonus entries – SPREAD THE WORD. Blog, tweet, or otherwise electronically tell others about this Revision Week giveaway to get additional entries today. Send an email to with “I Spread the Word!” in the subject line, and in the body include a link to your blog post or your Twitter address or your Facebook wall or whatever social media you used to spread the word. Don’t send screen-shots; attachments won’t be accepted. Include your title and full name in the body. Spread the word more than once? Then send an “I Spread the Word!” email for each one!

Anyone who doesn’t follow these rules will be disqualified, at the Editor’s discretion.

Disclaimer: The Editor does not share or in any other way use your contact information; it’s collected solely for winner contact purposes at the end of the giveaway.

Good luck!


  1. Congratulations to yesterday’s Free Partial Manuscript Giveaway: Elaine Kearns! Elaine, I’ll send you an email directly. Everyone else: good luck with the full ms giveaway today!!

  2. This was a fun week. I’m sure learning a lot. Lowering my anxiety about “perfectionism” alone is worth my undying gratitude. Thanks for this opportunity.

    Glad this will be an annual event now. I hope that’s true truth for both the partial and full edits too.

    Thanks again to all the guests who took time from their busy schedules to give the hope, knowledge, and tools shared this week.

  3. Nathan’s interview was terrific! I subscribe to three blogs: Bransford’s, MSFV, and DearEditor because those are the three best on the web! 😀 One thing that surprised me this week was that so many authors never use CPs. I love mine — as much for support as for the feedback. Thanks for an awesome interview, Nathan, and a great week, Deborah!

  4. Thank you Dear Editor, and all your wonderful guests, for a full week of helpful and informative posts!

  5. Thanks for all the great information. It was especially fun reading the answers to “How do you know when you’re done?”

  6. I love that Nathan says he had to rewrite his opening (sorry, Nathan!) because it helps to know that even someone with his years of experience finds opening tricky. I know I do!
    He’s been a incredible source of information and encouragement to so many writers through his great blog.

  7. Okay, I’m in! Better late than never, right? Great interview, by the way. I enjoyed reading it. Wow, two major rounds of revision after the editor has seen the draft? Sounds like a lot of work! Thanks for the heads-up!

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