Thursday, June 21, 2012

Understanding Revisions: What you get and what the editors/agents want

I wanted to address the idea of revisions today. Now, for many of you, getting revisions will happen after you have an editor or agent, but there will be times when and editor or agent will indeed provide you some revision notes and give you the chance to resubmit the project. In either case, it is crucial that you understand what is really going on when it comes to revisions.

First of all, let me stress that revisions, in no way, are an attempt to re-write your story into something you don't want it to be. Editors and agents see some great elements in your story and want to see it tweaked a bit to better fit the market, or to pull out some key story elements that might be missing. The tweaks might also be there to answer some questions that you may have over-looked in your initial writing of the story. So, there is no need to worry about losing "your story." It will still be there.

But here is something we need to remember. The editors and agents will not be re-writing your story for you. They want you to make the changes and they want you to personalize it in such a fashion that represents your voice and style. For this reason, you will often see revision notes that spend a lot of time asking questions. "What did you want to say here?" "Is this really necessary? You might want to rethink this."  In other words, the editor and agent will provide you some things to consider and contemplate in your story.

What they are looking for is to see what you do with the story. This is especially true when you submit a project to an editor and they want to see the revisions BEFORE they consider contracting you. Consider this a test of your ability to follow directions and take critique. I honestly have to say, if you ever get the chance to do this, DO NOT BLOW IT OFF!!! Those editors really took the time to come up with some things to consider in the story. They found some things that didn't quite work for them. Now, it is your turn to demonstrate you can make those changes, without damaging the parts of the story they really liked.

I do know I have heard some writers complain that when they get critiques, or revision letters, they weren't told the exact changes to make. They truly wanted someone to say, "No, you wrote it this way but this way is much better...write it like this." While that might fix the problem, in the end, the writers simply didn't learn and grow. They never really understood why the change was made and what the newer version did differently. They simply saw the change.

Revisions are great when you get them. Really take the time to think about how you want to approach those changes. Make it good though. This might be the last chance you get to push that story with the editor or agent.


1 comment:

  1. They truly wanted someone to say, "No, you wrote it this way but this way is much better...write it like this."

    Really? This surprises me! It always seems like this is most writers' fear, tying into that idea of the editor turning the story into something they don't want it to be.

    I find it really helpful when critique partners ask questions that make me reevaluate the story and recognize the need for a change. Usually it helps not only that story, but how I think about subsequent tales.