I haven’t experienced the mixed pain and pleasure of a revision letter yet.
Pleasure because the editor sees potential in my story, she wants to see more, ultimately she must think that this could actually be publishable! Pain because she doesn’t like this and she doesn’t like this and she doesn’t like this and she wants me to add more of that and that and that? I loved my story the way it was. I sent her the best version I could. How the hell can I change all that?
No wonder we don’t know whether to dance or cry when we get one!
But they are a necessary part of a published writer’s life- next to no stories are published without some revisions, whether minor or extensive. The editor’s job is to know what will make a story work better, and read better, no matter how good it already is. Ultimately, her job is make our stories more publishable- to help us create stories that readers will buy, read, and love so much they put us on their auto-buy list for next time!
The sad thing is, a huge percentage of requested revisions never get done. Two reasons.
The writer reads the letter as a rejection rather than a revision. Thinking of how to decode “rejection” letters, there’s an oldie but goodie forum thread on eHarl. I’ve heard so many writers say they’ve had a rejection when it’s really a revision, including one of my writing buddies.
Or the writer knows it’s a revision but decides not to redo and resend her story, because it feels like too difficult a job. Sometimes that’s the right decision, the story is too close to the writer’s heart to make the requested changes, and she’s better starting something new. More times it’s just a missed opportunity. We gotta know how to revise to get published!
Maisey’s Call story makes it clear what a big part revisions played- though the first version of her story was excellent, her finished story incorporating her editor’s suggestions is amazingly stronger. She quotes from her revision letters on her blog in this great post.
Anyway, I want to cut and paste some wise advice for dealing with revisions posted on the Mills and Boon forum by Historicals author Michelle Willingham. Mainly so when that day comes I need it, I can find it again!
I go through three phases when I do revisions.
1. OMG, panic! This book is the Worst Book Ever! She Hates It! (sobbing wreck)
2. Get over it, Michelle. Read the revision letter point by point. Start with the little tweaks. Think about the bigger picture.
3. Read revision points again. Realize that she didn’t really hate it, but I really do have work to do.
4. Remember that I’ve done this before. I can do it again. Self pep-talk. Read and absorb revisions again.
5. Start at the beginning, Realize that editor was completely right and What Was I Thinking when I wrote this? Start tearing it apart.
6. Start to see the light. Revisions are making the book stronger. Oooh, am loving the changes!
7. Turn in the revised book. Collapse in a heap.
Three things that you might try when revising your mss and a scene’s not working…
1. Change the POV to the opposite character
2. Deepen the scene by revealing more of their emotions and motivations
3. Delete the scene entirely. Sometimes less is more.
Just thought I’d throw those out there, since they’re techniques I use the most often.
Revision letters are tough and challenging! But having just had the dreaded form rejection, I would loooooooove to have had one of them instead!