|This post is not for sissies.|
If you are unpublished or you are published and this letter is from an editor who is not "your" editor "YET," the letter may not be defined as as a revision letter. However, if this letter outlines the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript and does not indicate that you should never darken this editor's door again, you should consider this a revision letter. If there is any doubt whatsoever, do email that editor and say something like this:
Dear Amazing Editor,
Thank you so much for taking time to review my manuscript. I am working to strengthen this story using your insightful comments. When completed, may I resubmit this story?
For the record, I'd been submitting on and off for a good many years and had revised and resubmitted many times before my first sale. The story of my first sale is centered on revisions. I received a snail mail rejection letter for A Place Called Home. When ACFW was in Denver that fall I showed the letter to Seeker Debby Giusti, who remarked, "That's not a rejection. That's a revision letter." What did I know? It didn't say revise and resubmit. I did revise, and I did an additional requested revision after the book sold. That book became The Rancher's Reunion.
Do you know how busy editors are? Consider this: they read your pages, logged the story into the publisher's data base as received (yes, you are now in a publisher data base) and took the time to type you a letter. So why would you ignore this opportunity, unless you :
1. Are not very bright.
2. Are a certified diva/divo.
3. Got a better offer.
4. Decided to take a different publishing route.
5. Disagree morally, and/or ethically with the requested revisions.
For the purposes of this post I will consider that no Seeker Villager is #1. At very least, send a thank you note. On paper. Yes. Snail mail.
A few more foundational notes.
It doesn't matter if you have published zero books, five books or fifty books, revision letters are as common as rejections. The reasons for both do not necessarily indicate that you suck. So let's take that option off the table.
You can get a revision request at the proposal stage or at the completed manuscript stage.
You can skate along with no revisions for several, or even many books, and then get slammed with heavy revisions. You can have light revisions on all your books. Often the definition of light and heavy is subjective according to which side of the red pen you are on.
Also note that some publishers call the stage when a book has already been accepted for publication macro edits not revisions. Every publisher handles revisions differently. Some use track changes for everything. Some do not until you get to the line edit stage or copy edit stage. ( Edits vs. Copy Edits. / Copy Editing vs. Line Editing.)
My Revision Tips
This post is NOT the unequivocal bible of revision tips. These are my suggestions utilizing my experiences and those of several Seekers who offered their revision letters for our use.
I have had three editors at the same publishing house for seven books. I have also amazingly enough, had books with no revisions, books with light revisions, and had several books with heavy revisions. In all honesty, my first big revision had me crying for a day (remember the 24 Hour Rule). The last book I turned in, I apparently forgot EVERYTHING I know and thank you, God, for an editor who didn't ask me if my cat wrote the book, but simply sent me a very nice, albeit detailed, revision letter.
|24 Hour Rule. Memorize it!|
The Letter Portion of Your Revisions
Here is the skinny on your revision letter. Editors are nice people and apparently someone sent them a memo about the sandwich method about the same time the very same memo went out to critique groups. The samples of revision letters here are from several different publishers and yet they all begin with pointing out the author's strengths before discussing weaknesses.
These are some of the lovely positive reinforcements from YES, REAL REVISION LETTERS:
#1 I’m so excited about partnering with you to make xxx the best it can be. There’s a lot to love in this book. Great job on your premise! Your sense of story and the cast of identifiable characters make the reader want to turn the page. As always, though, an editor looks for ways to make the content stronger. That’s my job.
#2 I think your writing is really strong, and you do a great job of character development. However, I think that the manuscript could use some revisions with plotting.
#3 I’m thrilled to have a chance to work with you on another book. You did an amazing job with xx and xx's story. You took the revisions to heart, and the book is a lot better as a result. A few more tweaks are needed, but you are well on your way to a stellar story.
#4 This is an entertaining read that flows nicely and is sure to satisfy romance readers looking for a side of adventure, action, and humor. Likable characters, real stakes for the lead characters, and a feeling of forward momentum with a fast pace. The writing is smooth and competent, with enough going on regarding the plot to hold interest.
#5 Thank you so much for all the work you did on xx. Overall I feel you did an excellent job. You’re writing is polished and reads well, and I especially enjoyed the dialogue. It’s smart and interesting, and made me feel connected with the characters. This story will really capture our readers’ hearts. And while it’s in good shape, it could use some revisions to make it even stronger.Before You Start!
Your first step is to create a copy of the original manuscript and save it in safe PLACES. Your external hard drive, email it to yourself, in the cloud and on your computer. Give it a specific name that will tell you this is a copy of your original manuscript.
Please, please use another name so you do not overwrite the manuscript.
When you start revisions use a new name.
This is a hugely important first step. You must understand the revisions to do the revisions. If you don't understand what the editor is asking of you, check with another experienced author, or if you are published, of course, you will ask your editor.
2. Bullet Points
Many light and medium revisions come numbered or in short bullet points or even numbered according to the page the revision request is on. Note that to maintain your sanity it will be very important not to mess with the pagination if your editor provides revisions by page numbers. Debby Giusti and Pam Hillman discuss their methods later in this post.
I like to highlight the bullet points. Cut them out with scissors, and then tack them to a display board and start going through them one by one. I put them in the order I will attack them, which is not necessarily the order the editor gave them to me. It gives me a visual that is less intimidating and a feeling of accomplishment as I take them down when completed. (This is my method. This may not be your method. I am visual, and need a visual aide.)
Often in light or medium revisions you are clarifying, tweaking, strengthening, and layering-in where you may have missed an opportunity to do so.
Big revisions mean you had bigger or more issues to deal with. That's life. It happens. Big revisions can mean goal, motivation and conflict concerns, character issues, plot holes, or maybe a lot of small things.
I find that big revisions mean more narrative. So you have to take the narrative your editor sent you, or even a narrative with bullet points and translate them to clearly name the issue, so you can address the issue/s.
Here are my translations from my most recent revisions. Note: I cannot show you more of the revision letter because the book has not released yet. This was a little over a two and a quarter page revision letter. (Not my my longest revision letter either.) My editor was spot on.
Consider yourself blessed if you have an editor who really cares about your writing as much as you do, and works as hard as you do to make your stories go from good to AWESOME.
2. Create a Plan
Just like light revisions, you have to create a plan. Work on the easy stuff first and then attack the issues that hurt your brain and/or the issues that will have a huge ripple effect on your entire manuscript.
3. Save the Words
For this particular story, I took my editor's advice and did a few things right away.
1. I eliminated chapter one, scene one.
2. I cut out three characters.
3. I took action from the middle of the book and moved it to the first three chapters.
3. I also decided to add three additional scenes.
Note: As per her style, my editor told me the issue and WHY it was an issue, and in a few instances gave me alternate options as a jumping off point for ideas. If I had disagreed or was confused, I would feel comfortable to call or email to discuss this.
Every book is different. The important thing to remember is that everything you do in revisions (even light ones) will often impact the entire story's continuity in some way.
Save the Words Method
1. Here is my method. I take everything I cut and put it in an outtake manuscript.This outtake was 5 thousand words. Label this as an outtakes manuscript.
2. Then I go through and highlight what I can use again and color code it as use now or use later. That translates to -I know exactly what to do with those words now or I WILL find a place for those words because they are too good to lose.
Periodically I print off a new outtake manuscript as I utilize the saved words (copy and past them in your final manuscript and then cross them out on the hard copy).
|Outtake. SAVE THE WORDS|
Socks in the Dryer
I can't emphasize enough the importance of a read through after revisions. After all, you were in the middle of a different project when these revisions came, (shame on you if you were not) and the revision process, like doing laundry, means you can expect things to end up missing, like socks in the dryer. Don't just do a regular read through! Mix it up, because your eyes get lazy and they overlook missing words and lost punctuation. After twenty-five edits and a revision, you have your story memorized.
These tips are from my self-editing class.
1. Read the entire manuscript aloud or have someone read it aloud to you.
2. Author Molly Greene has a great technique for printing and reading your manuscript with fresh eyes. Create a Key-Line or a Paperback version of your manuscript. Why should you read on paper? You absorb more. Check out this article then print your manuscript for the final read through using these instructions.
Set page to landscape (go to File > Page Set-up > Paper: size/letter, width 11” & length 8.5” > Click Okay)
• Create 2 columns (go to Format > Columns > Click Two > Click Okay
• Set document to single space
Page Layout: Orientation: Landscape
Page Layout: 11” x 8.5”
Page Layout: Columns :Two
Home: Select All: Right Click : Paragraph: Single Space
|Who knows the TV show? Years it was on? Just the facts, ma'am.|
Every editor has their own style!
From Sample Revision Letter #1
You might want to take a closer look at the interactions between xx and xx or xx and xx or xx and xx. I noticed that in places these described emotions and/or interactions seem unnatural or over the top. I’ve made specific comments in the manuscript, but it would be good to go back through the manuscript and question every piece of dialogue. Ask yourself, “Does this sound natural? Would this character really say this? Would the reader understand the scene if I just eliminated this?” Rather than detail them here, I’ve made extensive notes about character interactions throughout the manuscript.
From Sample Revision Letter #2
P.32 Not clear here why xx had to come home so suddenly. Was xx wanting custody of xx?
P.44 Scene break’s last line might be too abrupt.
P.69 Not clear yet why she has such a healthy diet. Needs to be explained better.
P.85 When does the conflict about going for the same job kick in? I had assumed this would be the plot for the book.
P.88-90 Would rather not hop back and forth from xx to xx like this. Can we do this another way?
P.133 This whole outdoors church thing is fun, but why’s it here? How does it further the plot?
From Sample Revision Letter #3
Pg. 108: He should ask xx in paragraph 2, not tell her.
Pg. 120: Cut down on the chit chat.
Pg. 130: Too soon for talk of love. And we never heard this in xx POV.
Pg. 138: Bottom of page is awkward. And they shouldn’t “date”. It kills the tension.
Pg. 185: Way too early for this. What’s keeping them apart internally?
Pg. 225: We need a transition from previous page. It feels like something is missing here.
Pg. 241: Dialogue is really stilted here.
Pg. 243: It’s too late to be learning about this. It feels like an afterthought.
From Sample Revision Letter #4
1.It seems as though people are recovering from very serious injuries way too quickly, several times throughout the story. Consider revising these situations to be more realistic and believable, either by allowing more time for recovery or making the injury less serious.
2. Keep an eye out for POV—that it’s consistent, that each of the POVs is necessary, each scene portrayed with the most appropriate and advantageous viewpoint character. For example, should Hero’s friend’s POV be switched to Hero’s since he is this story’s hero?
3. The romance is working, though it seems based a bit too much on physical attraction alone. Overall, however, we think readers will like Hero and Heroine as a couple. The only thing we’d leave out is Hero “telling” Heroine she’s going to marry him. We like him better when he’s baffled by women in general yet taken by Heroine.
|This is not real chocolate. Please do not touch your screen.|
Tips from My Friends
You'll no doubt sense a theme from many of these tips!
A revision letter is a gift intended to make your book shine. But it can also sting, so read it, put it aside for a day or two and let the emotions settle. Then print off the manuscript and use color coded sticky flags to mark areas of concern. Finally, make the changes without compromising your voice or story. Never ignore a revision letter. My first one was my path to publication. Linda Goodnight-The Rain Sparrow.
If I have extensive revisions, I print the manuscript, punch holes in the pages and insert them in a three-ring binder. With the revisions in mind, I read through the pages of the manuscript like I would read a book and make corrections as I go. Any lengthy additions can be written on the blank back of the previous page. In that way, I never delete words that I may need later. When I’m ready to enter the corrections into the computer, I begin on the last page and work to the front to keep my computer page numbers in sync with my hard copy. Debby Giusti-Plain Danger.
First, breathe. Drop the defensive posture. PUT AWAY THE KNIVES!!! This is normal, it's part of the biz and honestly, 95% of the time, they're right! Start at the beginning, work through it and be glad you've got a job! Ruth Logan Herne-More Than a Promise.
Read the letter once or twice, then put it away. Don’t do anything with the story for as many days as it takes for the editor’s suggestions to sound less like “Do it my way" and more like the “What if . . . ?” that got you excited about the story in the first place. When you’re starting to see the story with new eyes and can imagine all the new and better possibilities, then and only then are you mentally and emotionally ready to tackle revisions. (Of course, if your editor gave you a revision deadline, obviously you have to push the coming-to-terms process into high gear and JUST DO IT.) Myra Johnson-Rancher for the Holidays.
Take some time to absorb the particulars of the revision letter and try not to take it personally. After you've allowed yourself some time to take it all in, tackle it head-on, always keeping in mind that doing the revisions is a means to an end. Revisions will bring you one step closer to publication and may result in a contract. Belle Calhoun-Alaskan Reunion.
Relax, a lot of writers have survived the revision process. Take a day or three to think about the editor's notes. Eat chocolate. Pray. Then roll up your sleeves, dive in and make your book better. Rachel Hauck-The Wedding Chapel.
Tip 1-First, I skim through the entire manuscript, looking for comments or suggestions, noting anything that might change the big picture. Then I work in layers. First, I fix everything that’s a no-brainer: misspelled words, punctuation and grammar mistakes, etc. I skip over anything that I have to think about or I’m unsure of. Then, I make another pass with the rewrites, as those require more attention. Hopefully, this is the last pass, unless there is some big rewrite that causes other portions in the manuscript to become out of kilter. Then I panic.
Tip 2-If you are editing your manuscript in Word, make sure that you and your editor are on the same page as far as when and when not to accept changes in Track Changes. Generally, when I’m writing for my publishers, I leave all changes on the manuscript, and don’t accept anything, but when working with a freelance editor and the manuscript goes back and forth several times, I will accept changes to clean up a manuscript. Just be aware of what’s preferred, so that you don’t get caught at 2 am wondering what to do.
Pam Hillman-The 12 Brides of Christmas Collection.
Do NOT panic—the letter probably seems worse at first reading than it really is. Set the letter aside until the next day when you can read it again more objectively. Pray for insight and wisdom. Get editor clarification if needed. Tell yourself you CAN do this—then get to work, one point at a time. Glynna Kay-Claiming the Single Mom's Heart.
As you are reading your revision letter..remember it's a revision letter not the OTHER DREADED R. The rejection letter. Say a prayer of thanks!
My very first rejection letter started, 'Dear Sir/Madame.' Here I'd offered them my life's work and they couldn't be bothered to know my gender. I cried over how impersonal it was, and only much later did I realize that none of it's personal. These people don't know me or my dreams. I dusted myself off and went back to writing. Kate Breslin-Not By Sight.
We end with a picture of Kate's Rejection Letters.
|"Contains images that some writers may find disturbing. Writer discretion is advised."|
This is the part of the blog post where you tell us about your revision experience (in politically correct terms) or ask questions about revisions (which anyone should feel free to answer), or give us helpful tips that were not mentioned in this post.
Leave a comment today for the opportunity to get your name in the recycled paper box for your choice of any RWA RITA 2016 finalist book in the inspirational category (as available on Amazon in ebook or print), because you should be reading all the finalists in the category you write or read. Winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.
Tina Radcliffe really likes to write about things that she too struggles with (fiction & non fiction).