This scenario is not an uncommon one, believe me. My manuscript for ONLY THE BRAVE TRY BALLET went through three rounds of revisions before I got ‘the call’ and even then they threw a fourth round in for good measure.
Here’s the good news: revisions mean the editor thinks your work is worth his/her time. They don’t do this for everyone, so if you get revisions from an editor it means you’re doing something right.
Bad news: revisions can be scary as all hell.
My first revision letter was three pages long and it involved me re-writing approximately half of my story. However, in listening to the editor’s advice I was able to better shape my story, clarify the hero and heroine’s conflict and generally make the story better.
Tackling the revisions, however, can be a very daunting task. Where do you start? How should you approach it? What if you disagree with one of the suggestions?
I’m not an expert, I’m just an author who managed to feel her way through enough revisions to convince an editor to say ‘yes’. So I do have some experience in tackling revisions both from a mental perspective and a process perspective.
Part 1 – Tackling revisions from a mental perspective
There are a couple of things that you should do before actually working on the revisions.
1. Get a cup of coffee, tea, vodka (insert your poison of choice here)
2. Print the letter out and read it
3. Cry, scream, shout, complain to your husband and/or cat
4. Rip up the letter
5. Wait at least three or four days before attempting to look at the letter again
6. Repeat steps 1-3
7. Create a plan for tackling the revisions (I’ll cover this off more in part II)
Revisions can mess with your head. But taking the right steps to mentally prepare for revisions is important. My approach allows me time to digest the information and figure out the best way to move forward.
Therefore, my serious top tips for mental preparation are as follows:
1. Allow yourself some thinking time. As I said, read the letter and then put it away for a few days. In the heat of the moment it might be tempting to dismiss the editor’s suggestions, to take the revisions to mean your work isn’t good enough etc. By taking a few days away from the letter you give your brain time to digest the information fully and to let the emotions clear.
2. Check your mindset. The editors are very busy and the fact that they’ve taken time out to write you a revision letter means they like what they see – you MUST remember this. Choosing to see the letter as an investment in your writing will help you tackle it more positively.
3. Check in with your support network. I am a HUGE believer in the support network. After I got my first letter I read it to my husband. You might want to turn to your critique group, a beta readers, your mum – whoever. But they will see the letter for what it is: a fantastic opportunity.
4. Look at it with a critical eye. Is there anything which you’re uncomfortable with? Are there any suggestions which you think don’t fit your story or style? You can always raise these with the editor, I’ve done this and while it can be intimidating it’s ultimately what’s best for your story. Just remember, always be polite and professional.
5. Set time aside to plan. After you’ve had a little space from the letter and you’re comfortable with the suggestions make some time to sit down and plan how to tackle the revisions. Don’t jump straight back into writing, give yourself at least one writing session’s worth of time to think strategically about how you’re going to make your story better.
In part II I’ll share how I actually go about tackling revisions from a process perspective. In the meantime, if you’ve gotten yourself a revision letter don’t forget to pay yourself on the back. You’re doing great! If you have any tips on how to mentally prepare for revisions please share them in the comments below – I’d love to hear them!