Why Revisions Matter (Or: Giving Editors A Reason to Say Yes)

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Why Revisions Matter (Or: Giving Editors A Reason to Say Yes)

I’m currently in the process of finishing up intensive manuscript revisions with several of my clients. And since I’m a total geek, I think it’s a whole lotta fun. But I’m not so sure my clients agree with me, at least not at this particular moment in time.yes

Giving editorial advice and doing revisions with clients is a large part of my job, and I take it quite seriously. That’s why, even when I sign clients whose manuscripts are in fine shape, I have them do at least one round of revision before I submit their project to publishers.

Why am I so keen on revision? Is it because I enjoy being a slave driver? Because I’m addicted to the pretty colors that pop up on the screenwhen I use track changes? No and no. You see, editors are constantly bombarded with manuscripts—way more projects than they could ever hope to accommodate on their seasonal publishing lists. For that reason, editors say no to many more projects than they say yes to. Which is why it’s of utmost importance for a manuscript to be in tip-top shape before sending it out to publishers. It helps you stand out from the pile, rather than getting lost in it.

When I begin an edit with an author, and sometimes even before I sign them, I give them some variation of this speech: Before I submit your book to publishers, I’m going to edit it. At the beginning of the edit, you’re going to love me. Somewhere around the halfway point, you’re going to start to think I’m annoying and picky. About three-quarters of the way, you’re going to hate my guts. And by the end, you’ll love me again.

At this point, I have a couple of authors in the three-quarters stretch.  I know they’re tired. I know they dread seeing my name pop up in their inboxes, asking for more changes here or there. I know they feel like they’re going to rip their hair out if they have to look at their manuscript for another second. I know that every time they see my yellow highlights and my wordy little track changes, complete with my over-use of inspirational exclamation points (it’s a writing tic of mine!), they feel like calling me up and telling me where to stick my suggestions.

But that’s okay with me. I can live with them shaking their fists at me or ranting about me on Twitter or to their writing groups. What I can’t live with is sending a manuscript out into the world that’s in less-than-nearly perfect shape.

These days, editors have plenty of reasons to say no, even to manuscripts that show flashes of greatness. It’s not my job to give editors reasons to say no. It’s my job to give them a reason to say yes.

And so: Revisions.

You may hate me for it now, but you’ll love me for it later.

What about you? Do you enjoy revising your work? Do you have any revision tricks or tips that you use to get through the process?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jenny Martin, Mike Mullin. Mike Mullin said: Agent @daniellechiotti on her editing process: http://goo.gl/vnaa. The work has only begun when you land an agent…. […]

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  2. WOW. This post is so good. And soooo true.

    Fortunately, even at the three-quarter stretch, I’m still smiling. And still thankful for my agent.

    It’s hard work, but it’s so worth it, right? There’s something gratifying in seeing the transformation of a WIP.

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  3. Call me crazy but I enjoy the outcome of revision. Yes, it an arduous chore but well worth it. I have two methods that I use for revising my novels. Before doing a fresh read through I highlight all the over-used words. Then I jump around the ms and make changes in each paragraph based on the highlights. I go through several read-throughs and again, make more changes.

    A delima I’m running into now is that a few agents have my full ms. But of course I did more edits, (a manuscript can always be improved upon). In particular, more than half of the ms has been polished further than I ever thought possible. Should I contact the agents and send them the most recent copy of the ms? In researching this I’ve found conflicting opinions.

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  4. I’m in the process of revising my current WIP before sending it out. Do I like the revisions? I can definitely see a need for them, an improvement, and consistency (translates to – banging head on table). Then again I haven’t been edited (winks). I believe I’ll be ready for the long haul of having a professional revise. Forewarned is forewarned – right? (Hugs)Indigo

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  5. I think that revisions are essential, especially if you write the first draft “hot” like I do. Regards, Charles

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  6. Revisions are hard, but once I start doing them I get in the groove. It’s like a whole new world opens up and I see what isn’t working and strive to make it better. I just have to keep focusing on the big picture–writing the best book I can and accept that my ego is going to take a lot of hits to get there. :)

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  7. D. Friend: I can’t speak for all agents, but I generally don’t like it when an author sends me a new draft once I’ve already requested the full manuscript. The way I look at it is that the ms you’re going out to agents with should be the one you stand behind no matter what–meaning that you’ve done all of the polishing before you submitted to agents. If you’re itching to submit but you still feel your manuscript needs work, then hang onto the manuscript until you’re done tinkering with it.

    On the few occasions I’ve requested a full and then allowed writers to send me the “more polished draft” of the novel, I can tell you that I’ve been unimpressed and even disappointed with the level of changes. Basically: The polished manuscript did not change my original opinion when compared against the earlier draft.

    Hope that’s helpful!

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  8. Great post, Danielle. I’ve found the more I learn about revising – and the more I do it – the more I like it.

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  9. Wonderful post.

    I’ve always thought of revision as the dessert of writing, but then I’ve never had an agent or editor always talking in my ear telling me again and again what I need to do, so maybe that would lessen the sweetness? I don’t know. For now, it’s my favorite part of writing and I’m almost done with the first draft of my current WIP. I can almost taste the chocolate!

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  10. So very true! With my first MS I was mortified when I got the version covered in red changes. This time I’m gritting my teeth and smiling, knowing that it *will* be better at the end.

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  11. Well all I can say is I’d kill for an agent who took so much time and care over helping me revise my work.

    First draft is generally my favourite part of writing, although once in a very blue moon I have an epiphany during the revision process and can actually improve my work rather than hack it about willy nilly.

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  12. Well all I can say is I’d kill for an agent who took so much time and care over helping me revise my work.

    First draft is generally my favourite part of writing, although once in a very blue moon I have an epiphany during the revision process and can actually improve my work rather than hack it about willy nilly.

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  13. I just finished revising my MS based on my agent’s notes, so it’s now in its sub-to-pub form. I never once looked at it like she was belittling my skill, or asking me to change things “just because.” I trusted her editorial expertise and understood that her suggestions and edits were based on more than a whim. Every agent who offered me rep had comments about revision ideas, and I found it funny that some seemed to hesitate when bringing up the subject. I never did. I think it’s silly for a new author to think he/she has a “ready” MS after signing with an agent.

    But the thing I think agents need to realize, and I think most do, is that authors can revise based on good notes from an agent. I think too many agents don’t think “hey, if we did this and that, it might improve the MS significantly and improve the author’s craft at the same time.” I feel as if some agents think the MS needs to be 100% perfect when it comes to them. If this is the case, agents devalue themselves.

    Good topic, Danielle. Thanks.

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  14. Jmartinlibrary, I’m totally with you. ;-)

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  15. Great post. I wouldn’t be able to face the world if I’d sent something out that was less than its fullest potential. Writers tend to get rather precious about their drafts.

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  16. I love revisions–when I have a plan of attack, and get to add/tweak stuff that makes my manuscript stronger. What I don’t like is that horrible indecisive phase that pops up before you get your hands dirty, when your mind comes up with 500 different ways to solve something that isn’t working and you have to pick JUST. ONE.

    But the actual writing part of the revisions? That’s the fun part! =D

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  17. I love revising when I know the result I’m trying to achieve and I know it’ll make the ms better. I hate revising in a vacuum, when I know the story needs to be better, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with it or what to improve.

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