Before Christmas break and my study guide promotion took over my life, I began a series of posts with ideas on what to do before you publish. I began with posts called Set Goals and Prepare for Rejection. I would like to continue that series this week with thoughts on how to prepare for revision:
After working on several book projects, chapters, short stories, proposals, and magazine articles I still hold my breath when an editor e-mails me with revision comments. I’ve received praise, challenges to rewrite my work significantly, and even a long note telling me my project simply didn’t work as written.
It’s never easy to read that your work needs significant revision, but revision is a big part of the writing life and the sooner writers prepare for it, the better. Here are a couple of thoughts on how you can mentally prepare for editors and the revisions they may request.
Scrutiny is Coming
When you publish anything for the public your reputation and that of the publisher will be on the line. Therefore, an editor is your best defense against either missing your readers, saying something offensive, or making some other embarrassing error. Editors aren’t out to chop up your ideas, but rather to help you communicate them effectively with your prospective audience.
This doesn’t mean that every editor will do that well, but by and large most editors will help you write better and connect with readers in ways that you couldn’t do on your own. There will come times that editors can’t move past their disagreements with your work or you don’t see eye to eye on how to communicate something of importance, but rest assured those instances are more exceptions than rules.
Ideas will be Altered
It is humbling to find out that your ideas aren’t recognized as brilliant and world-changing. I’ve learned it is very hard to pick the perfect way to communicate an idea with readers. In fact, effective communication through writing can be quite challenging and sometimes we become so attached to our ideas that we can’t understand why others would have a hard time grasping our presentation of them. Once again, editors are there to ensure your ideas are altered in ways that improve their effectiveness, even if us writers sometimes think they’re just fine as they are.
Titles will be Modified
Never buy a web site domain name based on the title of a book. It’s just a bad idea since every book passes through an extensive titling process with a committee of experts pitching ideas. While it’s important to come up with a strong title for your book, there will be no guarantee that it will make the final cut with the publisher. There are many authors who strongly dislike the titles chosen for their books, so count yourself blessed if you at least find your book’s final title remotely palatable!
Words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters will be deleted from your manuscript. Just count on that happening. Perhaps the best skill I’ve learned over the years is how to delete gracefully. Sometimes it’s better to count your losses and delete a chapter rather than breaking your brain trying to make it work. If a sentence or paragraph is noted as unclear by an editor, just delete it and write a better one.
Extensive Edits will be Required
Sometimes you’ll write a generally good chapter that needs extensive edits to its organization and ideas. I usually like to rewrite the outline of such chapters and then begin with that barebones outline for my rewrites with a copy of the previous chapter handy. Rather than mushing my revisions together in the edited draft, I find it easier to make extensive edits with a somewhat fresh start. Sometimes I’ll paste in a few paragraphs that worked from the previous draft and I usually keep many of the same ideas, but once again the deletion principle applies. My motto is, “I’ve never written a sentence that I couldn’t delete.”
Previous Posts in This Series
Prepare for Rejection