The first step is possibly the most important: pat yourself on the back. Editors don’t give everyone the opportunity to revise and resubmit, so you’ve obviously captured the editor’s attention and you’re on the road to publication.
The next thing to do is to work out what the editor is asking for, it might be about working one or all of the below:
- Structure and plot – there might be something to do with the events in the story that aren’t working, perhaps the premise is a little cliché or there are some events which seem to be too heavily reliant on coincidence (my first revision letters was largely around fixing plot and structure problems)
- Characters – perhaps the plot is good but the characters aren’t fleshed out enough or maybe they’re not leaping off the page yet. Or, if you’re like me, you had way too many secondary characters and need to kill some of them off…yep, that happened
- Conflict – the dreaded conflict, this can be a tough one for first-time writers (and it can still be a problem even after you’ve written a few manuscripts, trust me!) Often this is about layering in more detail to strengthen the characters conflict and motivation (but that’s a whole other blog post).
- Voice – another one that’s really tough for new authors. This is more about how the book is written than what the story is about or what the characters are doing. I would highly recommend reading articles on finding your voice if you’re a new author
There could be a whole host of other reasons why you might need to revise your book, but these are some of the common ones. Having a good understanding of what the editor feels you need to work on will help you understand what you need to do next.
In getting organised to start revisions I do the following:
1. Print the revision letter out
2. Read it slowly
3. Read it again
4. This time read it and highlight what you feel might be the actual changes you need to make (e.g. the editor may point to a specific event in the book which needs tweaking or they might point to a general problem and then you will need to work out where in the book to make those tweaks)
5. Have a notebook or Word doc handy and make a list of all the changes (I sort mine into big and little changes. A big change might be the removal of a character and a small change might be changing the name of a town or street.)
Then as I go through the manuscript from start to finish, I mark off the changes as I go. I find this step to be crucial in helping me to understand how much I have done. It’s easy to get lost in the middle of revisions and forget what you’ve changed and what you haven’t. Tracking the changes really helps me.
After I’ve gone through the manuscript from start to finish, I will often read it again. Then I ‘weed out the bad words’ i.e. just, actually, really…all those words that don’t add any value. If I have time I’ll either send the entire manuscript (or the parts which have had the most work) to a critique partner or my beta reader.
Then I do a final read through to catch any typos, spelling errors, inconsistencies etc. before sending it back to my editor.
Don’t forget, you can always go back to the editor and ask for clarification. You can also ask to discuss any changes they’ve requested which don’t feel right for your book. The relationship between an editor and author is a two-way street, so don’t ever be afraid of talking to your editor about your concerns.
Stefanie London’s debut novel, ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET, will be out with Harlequin Mills and Boon in July 2014. She writes sparkling, contemporary romances with a pinch of spice.
Stefanie loves to connect with readers. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Good Reads or via her website.