Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revisions and the Author by Lynne Marshall

Many writers are under the incorrect impression that the hardest hurdle in this business is writing the book. Yes, it is a major accomplishment that only a small percentage of people can claim, and you should be proud if you are one of them, but that’s just the first step along the winding path to publication.

Let’s start here:

You've completed your manuscript.  You've fine tuned the character's external and internal motivations.  You've examined and re-examined the conflict between the characters - making sure it gets more personal throughout the story.  You've addressed the character growth for both hero and heroine, and maintained the proper romantic tension for the various stages of the book.  There is conflict on every page, and you’ve planted a question for the readers in each scene.

The black moment comes at the right time and makes the reader feel all is lost, that there is no way this couple will ever get back together.  You've written enough chapter ending hooks to keep the reader turning pages, and you've made sure your scenes transition well using goal, conflict and disaster in the active scenes and reaction, dilemma, decision for the sequels. 
You've checked and rechecked your character point of view, avoided head hopping, and used POV to reveal important thoughts to the reader. There is a good balance between action and narrative. Your story timeline is in order. Your writing flows smoothly, you've deep edited and re-read the entire manuscript, and read all dialogue out loud to catch awkward sentences. (It doesn't hurt to read the entire manuscript out loud for the same reason.) 

You've resolved both the characters' growth arcs and the plot's loose ends.  You've written the happily ever after (for romance) and/or a satisfying, hopeful ending for all other works.  (i.e. solved the mystery or murder, saved the world, or whatever you've set out to do)
Most importantly, you've submitted your book to a publisher or editor and someone is interested in it!!!!

The Revision Letter: 

(This letter can be a single page or a dozen, it all depends on the book and the editor)

The revision process can make or break the sale.  I’ve heard horror story after horror story from authors who have gone through three to five rounds of revisions, working closely with an interested editor, only to finally be rejected.  Hitting the right tone with the revision requests is paramount to making the book sellable, and unfortunately, there is no formula for success.  It all comes down to intuition, fearlessness in changing up your story, and a talent for fixing things and making them better.

Note to the wise:  Editors are paid professionals and they tend to know what they are doing.  Something that doesn’t at first seem to make your book better in their revision suggestions, on second look may be the key to opening up your story and bringing it to a new level.  Consider their requests with an open mind. 

    How often I’ve heard of authors who have received revision letters and assume them to be rejections, or, worse yet, refuse to change their books, or don’t have a clue how to change their books to the editor’s requests.  This ensures failure and rejection.

In my experience your editor will begin the letter saying something positive about your book – “this was the greatest book I’ve ever read!” (That’s a fantasy of mine,  and it hasn’t happened yet) or “I absolutely loved it!” or “These characters have so many possibilities!”  

Beware of the term possibilities.  This always means you haven’t met them and you will need to achieve them via revisions.

After the glowing opening phrase, the next sentence will tell you all the ways to make that wonderful book better.  Always be prepared for the BUT, as in “I love this book but…”   

That but is usually followed by “but we do have a few revision suggestions for you” and those suggestions are to make sure that you are wringing as much emotion as possible out of your story. (Especially if you write category romance)  You will be asked to make some scenes more “heart-wrenching” and others more serious as in “Keep an eye on light-hearted moments that sometimes come at a time when it feels a little inappropriate.” (This sentence appeared in one of my revision letters.)

Translation:  Knock off the smart aleck humor, would you? Possible second translation: We’re not looking for snappy repartee in this category line. 

You might be told your hero and heroine’s bickering “should be cut back a bit” as in it is annoying as all get out, and to turn the bickering into real sexual tension.  You’ll read words like “unsympathetic” which means your hero is too Alpha, your heroine is too dense, or your characters are showing signs of being too realistic for fiction which promises escapism to the readers. You may also see the term “off putting” and should know that means you’ve gone down the politically incorrect path.  You get the idea. 

CAUTION:  Do not feel compelled to work on the revisions for at least twenty-four hours after you’ve first received them.  Give yourself this grace period to regroup and allow your brain to subliminally begin work on the revision process.  I like to sleep on revisions (not literally) and allow my subconscious to figure out some of the solutions.  The technique is called lucid dreaming – we can control our dreams.

         Once I’ve recovered from the initial shock of the often multi-paged letter, I re-read the requests and focus in more, then I highlight with a yellow marker the main areas that jump out at me.  This can turn a several-page document into a single page of “to-dos” numbered 1-15.  The single page of core revisions seems far more manageable and less overwhelming to this writer.

Each editor has a distinctly different style and personality, and it’s up to you, the author, to figure it out and deal with it.  File this under that bit where I strongly urge the author to BE FLEXIBLE!!!!

Kathleen Scheibling, editor, Harlequin American Romance, RWR article November 2008:  "Revision letters are important.  It means something in your writing and your story stands out.  We remember the manuscripts, and we're waiting to see them come back."  Ms. Scheibling assured this important point:  If an editor takes time to write you a letter, either suggesting changes or offering to look at a different project, they're not just being nice!!!!!

REMEMBER:  It’s all in the attitude.  Don’t beat yourself up for not writing a flawless novel.  Be grateful that an editor or agent sees the book’s possibilities.  Keep an open mind and be flexible when approaching the changes requested.  Then get out your hacksaw and don’t be afraid to draw some blood from your pages!

The following is an excellent resource on what the editor expects from a Revise and Resubmit by Angela James.  Go Here
My sincere hope for each and every aspiring author reading this blog is that you may find a two to three page revision letter in your mailbox in the very near future.  Then get out that hacksaw and make that story bleed…to perfection.

This is a huge topic to cover, and unfortunately I've only scratched the surface, but I'll be around today.  I am happy to the best of my ability to answer any questions you may have regarding revisions. 



Lynne Marshall www.lynnemarshall.com is a multi-published author for Harlequin Special Edition and Medical Romance lines.  She also writes single title length for Wild Rose Press.  Her current release is Too Close for Comfort, a second chance at romance, over-forty story is available on  Amazon For a fun book trailer of this story go here.

Watch for Lynne’s future books from Harlequin: NYC Angels: Making the Surgeon Smile (Medical Romance) June 2013, The Medic’s Homecoming (Special Edition) July 2013.

Lynne will be giving away a print or e-book (the winner's choice) of either One for the Road (Single Title) or Courting His Favorite Nurse (Spec. Edition) or Dr. Tall, Dark...and Dangerous? (Medical Romance) her 2012 books to one commenter.

Winner announced in the Weekend Edition! 

(Please note that these are contemporary romances,  not inspirational romances, and may contain adult themes.)


  1. I love this glimpse into the revision process. As an unpublished author, I have so many questions about this step in the journey. It's always good to know what to expect before you venture into a new situation - especially when it comes to editors! Thank you for sharing, Lynne.

  2. Okay. Blogger ate my comment and I didn't copy and paste as usual.

    Great post, Lynne!

    I want to add, authors, don't be so in love with your own words that you sacrifice an excellent opportunity when you do receive those revision letters. I've seen it happen.

  3. Revisions can only nmake you a better writer.

    Excellent post!

  4. Lynne, I have nothing to add (people are fainting dead away right now, to the left and the right, awestruck by that first sentence...)

    You nailed this. And I can't underscore your words enough. I think Mindy Obenhaus, Clari Dees, Mia Ross, Christina Rich, Virginia Carmichael and Jan Drexler are awesome examples of this right here in Seekerville... they were asked to revise, sometimes multiple times, and now they're all published with Love Inspired. We're so proud of them, and your advice is the ticket.

    Bless you! Hey, great cover, btw, and I love over-forty romances!


    And I toted in breakfast, we're doing a la carte eggs, sausage, ham, bacon, French Toast, omelettes (made to order) and your choice of bagel, English muffin or toast, white, wheat or rye.... Pretend you're in a hotel lobby for the grand breakfast buffet!!!

  5. Great blog, Lynn! You've nailed the entire process. Thanks for the emphasis on revising manuscripts. I fear that too often unpublished writers take the editors' comments as the other "R" word: Rejection. Every writer I know accepts revision as part of the process to make the story stronger.

    BTW, do you have a medical background since you write for the HQ medical line? If so, how did you end up in publishing?

    So glad you could be with us in Seekerville today!

    I have edits due next week. Not big bloodletting but little pinpricks that will need to be bandaged. :)

  6. Thanks for breakfast, Ruthy! I need coffee first!

  7. Hi Lynne,

    What a great post. I'm definitely saving this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I'm working on an over forty romance right now. It seems like as our population ages this will become a more popular category. What do you think?

    Please add my name to the contest.

    Thanks again!
    Jackie L.

  8. Oh goodness, Lynne, I laughed when I read the line that said "You'll be told to make a scene more heart-wrenching." Um not me. I'm the type of writer who gets told. "Tone it back, Naomi. The world does not need to end because your character accidentally stepped on a bug." Sigh . . .

    But I will say that I find revisions very hard. You put so much work into making the story perfect, and then your editor comes in and wants to change it. It's hard to get back to work on something you thought was done, and some of the changes can be hard to swallow too.

    And eggs, Ruthy? I want eggs this morning. We're all out here. Sigh . . .

  9. Hi Lynn, it's great seeing you here.

    I like the way you presented what an editor is saying as well as an alternate possibility. Since I enjoy reading your books, it looks like you've taken your editor's advice and run with it. Good work!

  10. Oh Lynne, I was so excited to see you here and then I spelled your name wrong. :(

    Thanks for the coffee, Ruthy. Looks like I still need to wake up!

  11. Hoo boy... learning to bleed my manuscripts for the better. Tough lesson. Thanks for the reminder that our words are not carved in stone (rather, on the computer where the delete button is easily accessible).

    I'm still working on finishing the MS. I will be sure to do a happy dance if the editor sends me a revision request over the other R.

    would love to read one of your books.

  12. I love the advice to wait 24 hours. That is fantastic advice. Our brains are percolating even when we don't realize it.


  13. Like Ruthy said, I'm one of those authors that had to jump through some hoops to prove I could do this job. It was so worth it! But like my fave new Kenny Chesney song says: I didn't get here alone. I had unflagging support from Ruthy, the best cheerleader in the business, and priceless editorial help from my optimistic but pragmatic agent.

    I couldn't frame my first revision letter 'cause it was too long :D But I read it over and over--not because it made me angry but because Melissa Endlich saw something in my writing that no one else had up to that point. All her suggestions were solid, and I was grateful that she took the time to outline them so clearly for me. She could've easily rejected my book and taken on something closer to what she needed. But she didn't :)

    Keep in mind that editors have market research to tell them what their readers are buying and what they're leaving behind. Their job is to find books that will fly off the shelves, not get sent back to the warehouse. If someone is willing to help you get YOUR book into the hands of readers, don't sulk.

    THANK THEM. And get to work. Trust me--you'll be glad you did :)

  14. I admit that I'm one of the lesser intelligent writers who received a revision letter and assumed it was a rejection.

    That was years ago, so there's no need digging in the trash. :)

    Great Post, Lynne.

  15. Well Bridgett, you are not alone.

    I sold after a revision/rejection letter. It was the lovely Debby Giusti who said to me-ever so gently-this is not a rejection, it's a revision.

  16. And let's talk about how editor revision letters are so different than input from a critique group.

    Editors are so big picture. I now save all my letters and I apply them to the next book.

    That's the beauty of editorial input, (the gift that keeps on giving, lol), it continues to lay foundation after foundation, improving your writing.

    If you have a good editor you are very blessed.

  17. What a great post, Lynne! Thanks for sharing your wisdom regarding revisions. Your words give great perspective when receiving Revision letters from editors. My hope is that if/when I receive that piece of gold from an editor I will be able to see it for the valuable letter it is. As you, and others have mentioned, remembering it's not a rejection but an encouragement for improving my writing will be key. Especially if it's long!

    I like how you mentioned making a multi-page letter into a one-page to-do list. That makes it seem much more do-able.

    Thanks, Lynne!

  18. Our coffee maker is out with the flu. Prayers for Helen Gray.

    I have started the pots brewing.

    We also have Dunkin' Donuts and a large supply of RED PENS for everyone.

  19. My very first revision request I emailed, Cindy Kirk.

    She said the same thing.

    Turn it into bullet points.
    Then take it one bite at a time.

    I didn't have the skills to save the manuscript but I learned a lot.

  20. a wonderful posting...thanks for the chance to read one of your novels,lynne.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  21. Welcome to Seekerville, Lynne! Thanks for your helpful comments on revision.

    It would be so nice if an editor accepted a ms as is without any revisions. But it's never happened to me!

    I'm with Naomi -- it's hard to get back into a back when you think you're finished. It's especially difficult when you're on deadline for the next book. Unfortunately, there's no getting around it. The editor is boss. Period.

  22. Ruth, thanks for the coffee...i'd like cinnamon french toast, please. (i'm hungry for IHOP breakfast). Lynne...i will be looking for your novels in the Medical series for sure...i am sure that you wouldn't be here if you were not a phenominal writer like those on Seekerville. So thanks. i'll be heading to the library pronto. Well, after i get my current reviews up. Thanks for the morning, ladies. And where are Helen and Vince this morning? Have a great day.

  23. Lynne, you are soooooo correct. There is a big difference between a revision letter and a rejection letter. And I think when one follows through on a revision letter, it shows the editor that you're teachable and willing to rise to the challenge. In other words, you're someone they can work with.

  24. You've pulled the veil aside, Lynne. Thanks for the tips and details. Great post!

  25. Thank you for being here with us today, Lynne. I Loved the insight and encouragement in this post.

    I remember reading my revision letter and feeling like I'd swallowed a rotten egg, but God whispered in my ear to just leave it alone for a day or so. Then I went back and reread it and just worked on one thing at a time, and it became manageable. The suggestions also began to make sense. And it did make the story stronger! What do you know?! ☺

    Thankfully, that revision letter was only two pages. I think I might have fainted if it had been ten!

    I also tried to incorporate the suggestions from that letter into my next manuscript as I wrote. So hopefully, I won't have made the same mistakes. After all, new mistakes are more interesting. ☺

  26. I think you captured what needs to be done pretty well. I especially liked the part about the editor or agent not being nice. That gives me hope! :)

  27. Thanks for sharing this excellent advice, Lynne! Unpublished riters need to realize that if an editor takes the time to send you anything longer than a "No, thanks, not for us," it's a GOOD thing!!!!

    Your suggestions about how to deal with a revision letter are important for contracted authors as well. I've been gnawing my fingernails to the quick for several weeks now as I await edits on the first novel in my 3-book historical series for Abingdon. Can't help wondering exactly how much "fixing" my editor will decide is necessary!

  28. Unpublished "riters"???

    Oh, I hope Grammar Queen didn't see this!

    I meant writers!!!


  29. Thanks for the reminder.

    Sitting on the revision letter is the best advice. How often do we over-react at first glance and eventually calm down?

    Peace, Julie

  30. Tina, I remember your revision letter and recognized it as a revision and not a rejection because I had rejected too many revisions...had considered them rejections and thus hadn't revised...

    Ah, can you tell I need a good editor? Which I have. Emily Rodmell is a jewel. Lucky me!

  31. Good morning. I live on the west coast so, sorry that I am late in responding to so many of you.

    Gabrielle - I am happy to give you a glimpse of an often frustrating process. My knees literally shook the first time I got a revision letter. Somehow I managed to fix all of the editor's requests and I sold that book. You can and will, too!

  32. Hi Christina - excellent point. I have a friend TJ Bennett, who said - don't be married to your story.

    To be honest, it does seem a bit pompous to think NOTHING should be changed in our book, doesn't it?

    Sorry your first comment got eaten. I usually blame my dog for eating my blogs. :/

  33. Hi Debra - You ask too much! LOL. I don't think I'll ever love red ink, but I don't freak out about it as much anymore. :)

    Thanks for commenting.

  34. Hello Edwina -

    Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed this glimpse into the revision process. I have taught a two week online course on it before, so this is just a tiny portion of the whole process.

    You're so right, revisions do make us better writers. Our story vision is myopic. Editors see from a distance, and catch what may have slipped by us.

  35. Good morning Lynne,

    I sent in a proposal at the end of Nov and am expecting either a rejection or revision letter. Am I being negative? No, I just think I already know what needs to be changed.

    For me, it's not that I hate taking a knife to my writing, it's that in mind it's what REALLY happened and so I have to be able to picture the changes as being real. Do this make sense?

    Great thoughts.

  36. Hi Ruth - I'd like a cheese omelette with one slice of french toast (extra powdered sugar please)


    I am so glad to know someone else out there likes over-forty romance.

    Also - congratulations to the new Love Inspired authors you mentioned. Anyone who deals with Harelquin WILL RECEIVE A REVISION LETTER!

    I have a couple of author friends who've had their books accepted as written, (I'd pass out right in front of my computer if that ever happened) but never on that first book.

    We must think of revision letters as a rite of passage to publication.

    Man, I'm hungry!

  37. Debby Giusti! Wow - pardon my fan blush. :)

    Pin prick edits hurt, too. :)

    Though you really don't need to be in the medical field to write Medical Romance, I was a registered nurse for 26 years. I was working hard and diligently on contemporary romance writing (got a late start) when a friend saw the guidelines for MedRo. She said, "You can do this. I know you can." Took me several months to decide to give it a try. My first book was rejected, after revisions, of course, but they bought the second one - also after revisions.

    Thanks so much for agreeing with me on the blog. :)

    Definitely a fan.

  38. Hi Jackie - Yay for you for writing an over forty heroine. You would think that since the demographics for romance readers is solidly over forty, that these books would be more popular.

    Editors are not convinced on this, IMO, and it is hard to find a home for the books.

    Young love is beautiful, but so is mature love, it just comes packaged a bit differently. :)

    So excited to know there are others out there writing mature women in books, Jackie - best wishes to you!

  39. We have to be so careful not to take things the wrong way. I had a book rejected some 10 years ago, and the acquisitions editor said she would like to see other things I wrote. Guess which part of the letter I skimmed and spaced on? Oh this is a dicey business...but so worthwhile.
    Kathy Bailey
    Unpubbed in New Hampshire

  40. Hi Naomi -
    Yes, the revision process addresses each author's style.

    When I grew up I didn't want to be a drama queen, and I guess that comes out in my writing from time to time. Now, writing for Hqn, I've learned to embrace my internal drama queen. LOL.

    Honestly, though, I know what the editor is really getting at when I see notes such as you quoted - somehow I missed the conflict opportunity in the scene, and I need to go back and take another look.

  41. Hi Anita Mae!
    Lovely to see you here, too.

    I know for a fact, if I hadn't hit the right tone with the editorial requests for my second submitted book, I would have missed my first sale.

    I'm so glad you've read and enjoyed some of my books!
    Thank you

  42. Great thoughts on revision letters, Lynne!

    I agree with you about sleeping on that letter. When I got my first one, I read through it quickly, took a day to get over that stupid feeling of "they didn't like everything", and then read it through again with my highlighters.

    First, I highlighted all the positives (the first being that I actually got a revision letter!).

    Second, I did the same thing you suggested in your post, and highlighted the main points my editor was addressing, prioritized them, and made notes in the margins of ideas I had to address them.

    Then I put it away for a couple days before I started tackling the revisions.

    Another thing that helped me immensely is that I've always had the idea that an editor prunes a manuscript like you prune a fruit tree. The tree doesn't know which branches are more valuable than the others, but the gardener can look at the tree from a distance, from all sides, and identify which branches aren't adding anything to the fruitfulness of the tree - they're just robbing nutrients from the fruitful branches. The gardener also does things to help strengthen those fruitful branches and help them be the best they can be.

    Now I'm off to finish up my WIP by the end of the month (that's THIS WEEK!). It sure would be nice to get another revision letter soon :)

  43. DebH -
    Yes, sometimes we have to be ruthless with our babies. :(

    I hope when you get your revision letter (notice the positive attitude) that you'll nail it and make that sale.

    I hope this blog will help when the time comes, too.

    Oh, and also - you can use the first several paragraphs as a checklist before you send that baby off!

    Thanks for commenting.

  44. Hi Hallee - you are so right, our brains start the percolating process right off, but we need a reset period for our conscious mind.

    I once solved a revision request in a dream.

    Gotta love our brains, eh?

  45. Bridgett - Chalk it up as a learning experience (there are many in this biz) and move forward. When you get your next revision letter, we'll all happy dance with you. :)

  46. Hi Tina - First off, thank God for our writing groups and author friends, right? We all need guidance in this biz.

    Second - the big picture. Yes, so true how the editors get what often goes over our heads.

    I once had to resurrect a character after a revision letter. Felt a little like God after that one! LOL

  47. Jeanne T -
    I am glad to be helpful. It is amazing how our perspective about things is key. By zeroing in on the essence of what the editor (some editors are very verbose!) are getting at, all we need is a short sentence to fix it.

    1. Make Mike more likeable right off.
    2. The hero needs to be more dedicated to his job.
    3. Make the heroine pregnant (LOL)

    You get the idea.
    If size matters and long revision letters make you crosseyed, do this technique.

  48. Karen K - thank you for reading the blog. I'm glad you found it helpful.

  49. Cara Lynn -

    So true. The editor is boss, and we need to consider their suggestions.

    Honestly, though, if we give them 80% (in my experience) of what they ask for, and a good explanation on why the other 20% works, I find they accept it.

    We work together to make our books the best they can be, and sometimes, we just need to explain a bit better why certain things can/should remain as written.

    Either that, or we've failed to get what we know in our head on paper, and we just need to be more specific, build it up more.

  50. Marianne - one of the frustrating things about Medical Romance is that it doesn't go into bookstores in US. We are big in Europe.

    However, I'm so thrilled to write for Special Edition now, too. I just signed a contract for 3 more SEs and I couldn't be happier.

    Oh, and Tina Radcliff mentioned Cindy Kirk earlier - great resource and writer.

  51. Mindy O. - So true!

    The editor likes your writing, and they are feeling you out on whether you can take direction or not. It is imperative that an author be flexible. No editor wants to work with a prima dona.

  52. Lyndee - I love lifting of the veil moments. Yay!

  53. Clari - yes - you instinctively did the right thing. It always pays to listen to God's whispering.


  54. Misty - did I say they weren't nice? Yikes - didn't mean to.

    But - they aren't our friends, either. They are partners in a business of making books better.

    Someone else said it earlier - bottom line - editors know what sells in the marketplace.

  55. Hi Myra -

    Waiting for revisions is one of the toughest things to do.

    Usually, we're deep into another book by then, and it helps distract us, right?

    May your letter be brief and to the point, and painless!

  56. I wonder if there is a percentage of authors who never respond to revision letters thinking that they can't change their prose.

    While I understand that, it's still a shame, because the nature of this business is to:

    1. write a great story
    2. entertain the reader with your great story
    3. make money for writing a great story.

    Sometimes that means...changing your great story.

    Being married to your words sets a precedence of unwillingness to change. We grow from change, so that's rather sad isn't?

  57. Julie - usually my brain is flying in so many directions when I see the revision letter, I'm literally stunned. Couldn't work on that letter right away if I tried.

    It is fruitless to jump right in. We need to trust our brains to put things in perspective for us. Twenty-four hours is a good amount of time to get that ball rolling.

    Then after reading the revision letter the second time, we can home in on the really important stuff.

    Thanks for commenting.

  58. I'm curious what you and others think about waiting for your revision letter. This is if you know one is coming.

    Should you keep going-refining and reworking that same story.


    Move on to something new.

  59. Lynne, wow, when you said it's a huge topic to cover you meant it. I started copying sentences to say, "This could be a whole blog post right here."

    And finally quit when I was in danger of copying the whole post.

  60. Tina R - that's absolutely true, life is about learning and growing. Seeing our stories as perfect keeps us from making them better.

    I do believe that editors test out authors with revisions. Why work with someone who won't work with you? You know?

  61. I've learned to read through the revision letter, maybe multiple times, then step away.
    I find the letters both hard and almost always exactly right and wise.

    So there's your conflict right there.

    I know I need to make these changes and I find just a bit of time distancing myself helps me embrace the changes with more enthusiasm.

  62. Hi Connie - Waiting is the pits.

    It is important not to delve into fixing your book before you've been asked to though, because it will muddy the water on revisions when you get the letter (runon, I know)

    It will be interesting to see if your thoughts on how to make the book better and what the editor requests mesh, though.
    Drop me a line at my website and let me know, okay?

  63. Kaybee - that is a tough lesson to take, but you've definitely learned it now. Also, you can help open other authors' eyes about the importance of reading revision letters carefully and only fixing what needs to be fixed, instead of thinking you have to re-write the book from page one.

    I hope you are writing and submitting, and will continue to do so.

  64. I have been so blessed to have amazingly detailed and gracious editors with both of my books. I loved the process as we worked together to smooth out the rough edges.

  65. Jan - as they say - great minds think alike. LOL.

    you said: Another thing that helped me immensely is that I've always had the idea that an editor prunes a manuscript like you prune a fruit tree. The tree doesn't know which branches are more valuable than the others, but the gardener can look at the tree from a distance, from all sides, and identify which branches aren't adding anything to the fruitfulness of the tree - they're just robbing nutrients from the fruitful branches. The gardener also does things to help strengthen those fruitful branches and help them be the best they can be.

    Beautifully and perfectly put!
    Good luck with finishing the mss, and here's wishing you a fruitful revision letter.

  66. Mary C. - it is a huge topic, (have we got two weeks?) but it sounds like you've got the hang of it.

    I write this blog hoping to save new authors time and heartache. :)

    Thanks for concurring.

  67. Pam H. - thinking of revision requests as smoothing out the rough edges is a great way to look at it!

    It is a blessing to have a good editor.

  68. Ah, revisions. I love the suggestion to wait 24 hours until you start hacking at your ms. I haven't received revision letters from an editor yet, but when my critique partner sends me revision suggestions, it's always a little overwhelming at first. Then as I work through it in my head (before touching my ms) it suddenly feels much more doable.

    Thank you for the wonderful Tuesday post!

  69. Cinnamon French Toast, coming up... one of my faves.

    Tina, I agree, I've known way too many folks who can't bring themselves to change their story.

    I think editors are glad those folks weed themselves out of the stable fairly quickly. Picture Editor A with the choice of working with "Yes, I'll be glad to" Author A or "Allow Me to Argue Every Point" Author B...

    Who do you want on your team?

  70. Welcome to Seekerville, Lynne. Thanks for the excellent print worthy post. You gave a fabulous list of craft to check before turning in a book.

    Wonderful advice on dealing with revisions. I've always found the editors advice strengthens my story. We need to be teachable and realize we never arrive.


  71. Editors are paid professionals and they tend to know what they are doing. Something that doesn’t at first seem to make your book better in their revision suggestions, on second look may be the key to opening up your story and bringing it to a new level. Consider their requests with an open mind.

    HAHAHA! I love this! I got a revision letter that was basically "remove A and place near F. Remove K and put near B. Take B out completely and replace with S."

    I almost fainted.

    Two weeks of hard work letter, the book was about a thousand times better.

    Smart, smart editors.

  72. Thanks for the insights Lynne. I'm in the process of one of those revision letter, my second one, so I'm guessing that is a good thing. At least the editor hasn't given up on me. Maybe it will eventually get to being a contract.

    Jodie Wolfe

  73. When I received my first revision letter I freaked a little because I just couldn't see how it was possible to make the suggested changes. I did take about 24 hours, probably less, to think about the possibilities. I made the changes, sent it back and received an offer, which I happily accepted.

    The revision letter forced me to think outside of my box and I think the story is much better for it, even though I loved my story before, AND it's even much better after receiving my suggested edits.

  74. Awesome advice, Lynne. And I really need it this morning as I've just learned my last two novellas will need revision and have been advised not to be scared LOL.

    Well, I am, kinda.


  75. I like that linked article because she said editors don't expect the book back in a day or two.

    This last revision I was mostly losing my mind over imagining revisions being done ASAP.

    But it's better to take your time, go slowly. Great advice!

    I think the R&R letter is a crazy no man's land of anxiety because there's no cotnract, no deaedline for revisions, and all in good faith.

    But if you can see the positives, and talk yourself through the insecurity, the book might come out much better.

    But I always save a file of the original in case the book gets a pass. I can look at it with fresh eyes in a few months and see where it could go from there.

  76. This is such great advice, Lynne. I like how you help us with the attitude we should take for a revision letter. I have not gotten a revision letter. However, you have me revisiting the following rejection I received, feeling it was not "sincere." Maybe I was wrong. It's such a tough business and is easy to see everything as a polite form rejection.

    "While we will not be pursuing this story further, you do show plenty of promise in your writing voice, Cathy, and bearing in mind the above advice, we would be pleased to see a fresh idea from you."

    I would love to win a book, Lynne. You write so well and it encourages me to think that you had to cope with extensive revisions, at times, to succeed! :)

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo

  77. Thank you, Lynne, for being a fan. You've made my day...my month...heck, you've made the whole year seem brighter.

    Sending cyber hugs and boxes of chocolate.

    I'm a medical technologist and started writing for ADVANCE for Administrators of the Laboratory with a focus on emerging infectious diseases. After publishing with LIS, I wove some of my earlier medical research for Advance into my suspense. I still love anything medical. Wish HQ would market their medicals in the US! I know they'd find a larger reader base.

    Congrats on all your success, Lynne! I'm sure your two week writer class is outstanding!

  78. Excellent advice Lynne! All true, especially the 'listen to the editor' part. I am both indie pubbed and traditionally published and the editor I worked with on both had excellent ways to make the book work. They see it differently than we writers do, who are clutching it to our breast like zombies are reaching for our baby.
    Nicely said.
    Kim Hornsby

  79. Annie R. - That's exactly right. The revision suggestions do seem more reasonable and doable after 24 hours.

  80. Ruth L. H. - Perfect example of what must go through an editor's mind when dealing with authors.


  81. "....who are clutching it to our breast like zombies are reaching for our baby."

    Hhahahahaha! Love that!

  82. Jane Dean said: We need to be teachable and realize we never arrive.

    Absolutely! The moment we quit being teachable regarding life in general and writing in particular, we begin a slow and sad death.

  83. Virginia - So glad this makes sense to you.

    It is a crazy process, but the final draft is just about always better for the effort.

    There are horror stories out there where books get totally messed up.

    Which brings me to another important point:
    ALWAYS MAKE A COPY OF YOUR ORIGINAL MS AND WORK ON THE COPY. Just in case the revisions do turn out to be a disaster and you need to go back to what you had at the start.

  84. Jodi - hugs and sending good writerly vibes your way.

    I have had to do two passes on a couple of books before it was accepted.

    You can do it!

  85. Jodie - Thank you for making my point so clearly.

    If a person doesn't have the luxury of waiting 24 hours before starting the revision requests, a brisk walk outside can also start those brain cells leaping from synapse to synapse!

  86. JODIE!!!! CONGRATULATIONS. Two revision letters is good news. No one gives someone two revision letters unless they have much promise.

  87. Hi Tanya!

    Take that fear and turn it into gold.

    It does seem a bit cruel to warn someone they will get revisions, then keep them waiting, though. However, i know many editors are simply swamped, and your editor probably just wanted you to know it was a go on the project, even it the project isn't quite there yet.

  88. Hi Cathy!

    I'm so glad this blog was helpful for you. And as for this: "While we will not be pursuing this story further, you do show plenty of promise in your writing voice, Cathy, and bearing in mind the above advice, we would be pleased to see a fresh idea from you."

    I hope you have that fresh idea already and that your plotting (if you are a plotter) or winging it into chapter one (if you are a pantser)

    Do it! Do it! Write another book for them. They know your name and will watch for your next submission.

    Good luck.

  89. Hi Lynne,

    This blog is so timely for me as I plow through revisions!

    I love how you 'translate' the comments made by the editor. I remember one letter I received where I just scratched my head b/c I didn't even understand what she was saying! File that one under 'learning experience'.

    The link to Angela's article was really helpful as well.

    Your cover is beautiful! I love that you write for a couple of Harlequin's imprints and Wild Rose as well! Sometimes we think we have to pigeon-hole ourselves into one genre, or one publisher, but why not expand and go for more!

    Thanks for the encouragement! Love to be in the draw.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  90. Hi Debby - Now I know who to ask about any infectious diseases I may need.

    Have you noticed how hqn likes to have doctors and nurses in their general lines? I see a lot of titles that look like MedRo out there.

    Though the Medical line books aren't on the shelf in US, they are available from the Hqn website, there is also a large direct to reader group that each book gets sent to, and there is always Amazon! :)

  91. Hi Kim!

    You have brought up a very important point. With the lure of self-publishing, it is STILL VERY IMPORTANT (if not even more important) to have a trained editor go through the manuscript. The point of self-publishing is to find and keep new readers. A shoddily edited book won't win new readers. Right?

  92. Susan Anne - Oh, condolences and prayers to get through those revisions!

    I have one funny memory of trying to translate what my editor was getting at. At that time (I've had four different editors at Han) she was a British woman who tended to be a big wordy in her suggestions. Which is when I discovered the beauty of bullet points!
    Anyhoo - I finaly figured out what she was getting at - Ut-cay the Ooh-logue-pray!
    It did seem like she was speaking another language, but basically she wanted me to axe the prologue. LOL
    It wasn't funny at the time. :(

  93. Pardon the flying fingers errors, folks. I've got a dog on my lap and it gets tough!

  94. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, LYNNE -- it's great to have you here!!

    LOVE your statement: "Do not feel compelled to work on the revisions for at least twenty-four hours after you’ve first received them."

    Excellent advice!! I usually give myself that much time or more in order to wring out all the saltwater brimming in my eyes!!! :)

    And ESPECIALLY love the line: "Don’t beat yourself up for not writing a flawless novel."

    AMEN to that because I've yet to read a flawless novel -- opinions are just too diverse for that possibility. My favorite novel of all time is Gone With the Wind, and as much as I love the first line, which was:

    Scarlet O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.

    I always wonder if a short and sweet version might not flow better, such as:

    Scarlet O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm.

    But all one has to do is compare my sales with Margaret's, and we both know who the real writer is!! :)


  95. Cathy Shouse!!! Good to see you again.

    Wow, that's an amazing editorial content.

    That's like her saying...stop by anytime.

    Write. Write. Write. Write.

  96. Julie L - it's interesting how writing styles have changed over the years. We do like clean, crisp writing these days, but back then the frillier the better!

    One thing I don't think we should do is compare ourselves to other writers, though. It hurts too much! :)

  97. Thanks Lynne and Tina! It gives me the boost of confidence to start working on those revisions. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  98. I hear you on the lapdog. I have little people all over my legs (shades of Gulliver's Travels).

    I am queen of typos but thankfully, Jenny Blake can translate as needed. :)

  99. Thanks for the post. Good info and on the post within the post. Revision is important. I wonder if anyone really feels they've done enough. I might think I do and find out not. I'm not opposed to rewrites as long as i'm the one revising.

  100. That's right! Our Jenny from Down Under speaks Typo.

  101. Yes, Tina P. We can be the anal retentive twins too. There is a point when you have to say STOP the Madness and just send it off.

  102. Hi Tina P. - Yes, it is annoying to see something changed by the Copy Editor. That always gets my goat, and it oversteps the CEs job. IMO.

    Thanks for reading. Yes, I think the Angela James blog about Revise and Resubmit is definitely a worthwhile read for us authors.

  103. Jodie, yes! A second one is HUGE... Editors don't waste their time, ever. They really want our success, and if you can trust them to know their audience... then they'll help you build a readership.

    You go, girl! I'm so psyched to read that!!!

  104. Hey Tinas! That's my problem, too. I could revise a million times and still catch something. Then I get to the point where I feel I've massacred the poor ms and it was better three revisions back! Ack!

  105. Waving to Cathy Shouse! I'm with Tina...so good to see Cathy back in Seekerville!

    Jodie, YAY, you! Two revision letters. Keep giving them what they want. I see "The Call" coming soon. Whoo-hoo!!!!

  106. Hi, Lynne! Loved the post! Thanks for the helpful tips. They're right on time as I'll be getting my first revisions back within the next couple months for my debut novel. I'm excited! A little nervous, but excited!

    I do have one question. When you say editor, are you referring to an editor one might hire, the agent/editor, the publisher/editor, or all of the above?

  107. Yes, yes, yes, Lynne!

    We can buy your Medical's here in the US. Just not on the shelves of our favorite bookstores!

    Thanks for all your sage advice and words of wisdom today. Excellent post. A keeper, for sure!

  108. I like the red pen shown. I love rollerball pens, although sometimes they smear. I like Pilot and Uni-ball rollerballs.

    I'm not a writer but I'm sure I dreaded revisions when in school. I just don't like constructive criticism. Part of it is my anxiety, I'm just a nervous person.

  109. Hi Linette - I'm referring to the buying editor - the one at the publishing house who wants to publish your book.

    I personally don't think agents should be editing books they should be finding a publishing home for them, but that's just my opinion. Some agents are more hands on than others.

    I don't use any kind of hired editor before submitting, never have, but good critique partners are priceless!

    Does that help?

  110. Absolutely! Thanks, Lynne! :D

    I have friends who hire editors. Seems like more and more writers are doing that now. Then, I had an agent who took an interest and gave me editorial tips, but then decided to pass on representing me. But now I have a publisher and they are wonderful to work with! Contract signed, sealed, and delivered! :D

  111. Wonderful information, Lynne! The original blog, and the additional posts from you and your readers. I especially appreciate the reminder that an editor is someone whom the writer has solicited for professional expertise and advice – much like they would an estate planner, a doctor … or, as Jan suggested, an arborist (great analogy, by the way!) It’s never easy to accept criticism on artistic endeavors, but I try to remember it’s like going to a trusted hairstylist. If she tells me I look too washed out as a brunette or ridiculous in a perm, you can bet I’m going to listen. If she says a few highlights and a trim will do, great! But if I need three inches chopped off to get rid of distracting split ends, so be it. She knows her stuff; who am I to argue? And why get hurt feelings? She’s not criticizing me or my hair; simply letting me know how to style it for my best look. That said, even though I look forward to getting critique notes back so I can move on to necessary changes and the final draft, I still hesitate to submit my work for editing. So I appreciate your point that editors genuinely desire a writer’s success, and will work hard to ensure those ends. And if they take time out of their very busy days to suggest revisions or request alternates, it’s a very good thing (much like getting a callback on an audition!). So, I’ll settle my nerves and gear up for submitting. And if and when such a letter arrives in my mailbox, I might just stop by to take Milo for a walk … and then bribe you into translating editor-speak for me. Can’t wait to read your next offering – I especially enjoy your over-40 crowd – so keep ‘em coming!

  112. Great post, Lynne--thank you for sharing your expertise with us today! Hmmmm...now as I get back to my WIP, where is that hacksaw?! (*wink*)
    Blessings from Georgia,
    Patti Jo

  113. Linette - congratulations on your signed, sealed, delivered contract!

  114. Hi Robyn - I absolutely love the hairdresser analogy. You nailed it.

    Hey - I would love to celebrate with you when you get a revision letter!

    Keep me in the loop. :)

    I'm so glad to know there is an audience, no matter how small, out there for my over forty gals. :)

  115. Patti Jo - Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog. Hey, when you find that hacksaw, wait until the editor tells you what to cut, okay?

    Cute kitty in the picture, BTW.

  116. Lynne, seriously..there is a big audience for over forty gals, we just aren't ready to raise our hands and admit it. Love the anonymity of the internet.

  117. Lynne, you've been a wonderful guest. Visit us anytime and bring more insightful posts!

    Wishing you continued success!

  118. Thank you, Tina!

    I had a great time.

    Maybe I can come back in July?



  119. It sounds like you really need to be able to interpret what the revision letter is saying.

  120. Wow Lynn, I'm reading this a day late, but it was awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  121. Enter me!!!
    Thanks for the giveaway and God Bless!!!
    Sarah Richmond

  122. Mary, Terri, and Sarah, it's great that you stopped by, thanks so much. I hope the blog was helpful in some way for each of you.