Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Learning Curve of the New Author :: Revisions

The Pink Heart Society editor Scarlet Wilson is back for more of her Learning Curve column. This time...

The Art of Revisions.....or not

One of the steep learning curves I've had to embrace in this last year has been the art of revisions.  Or not.

The land of revisions is not an easy one.  Frequently, across blogs and forums you hear the screams of all authors - published or not - as they attempt to conquer revisions.

And truth be told?  I've been right up there with the screamers.

I sold after four rounds of revisions.  Yes, you did read correctly.  I'm not going to pretend it was any less.

And I have a bit of a theory about all this.  Believe or not, not all people who get requests for revisions do them.  Seriously.  Some people file that email in a special place and just ignore it.  Why?  I honestly have no idea.  So an editor, who may have spent considerable time and energy reading through a manuscript and asking for changes, may find her email ignored.

Still getting my head around that one...

Anyway, I think that sometimes they are "testing the water" so to speak.  They have no idea who you are, what your work ethic is, what your commitment to being published is, when they send you these requests.  I know that deep down I thought my baby was perfect and didn't need any changes.  I was wrong.

But I could also manage the changes that were requested and return them in a reasonable time frame.  And thereby lies the test.  I firmly believe my editor didn't want to floor me with what she really wanted, so she broke it down into manageable pieces.  And most of those I could deliver on.

Oh, except for Round 3 when I phoned Kate Hardy in tears and said "I can't possibly do that!"
And she gave me the best advice in the world.  "Give her what she wants - just give her it a different way."
And so I did.  And the rest, eventually, will become history.

Book 2 had two sets of revisions and Books 3 and 4 had one set of revisions each.  And I've had to learn how to deal with them.  When I first open the revision email I always think "I can't do that!" and, as an automatic self-defence mechanism I go off in a bad mood for a day.

But those words creep into my thoughts, steal my sleep away from me and trickle through my brain when I'm supposed to be supervising my children's homework.  And what seems ridiculous and completely unmanageable seems to work - all within a space of a day.

There is also always an opportunity to speak to my editor on the phone, or bat ideas back and forth by email.  Sometimes I just need to explain why I've done something.  And sometimes the odd sentence here and there explaining things a little better can be all it takes.

And sometimes I need to slash and burn.  But the less said about that the better.

The editors want to make you write the best possible book you can.  Sometimes it takes a little time for those two visions to become one.  But it can and does happen.

There can be tears, tantrums and snotters along the way.  It might not be pretty - but you'll get there.  So if any of you dare to ignore a revision email I may well come and knock at your door.

In the meantime I'll be waiting for a revision email on my Christmas book.  And I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be for the faint hearted!

To keep up with Scarlet, check out her website.


  1. Great post Scarlet! I too cannot imagine why anyone wouldn't give a revision letter a shot!

  2. Hi Scarlet. Thanks for sharing. Revisions can be so tough, can't they? But worth doing if you want a great book out there. For me the hard part is finding how to achieve what needs to be done. Sometimes it takes a while to nut out.

  3. Hi Rach! Can't imagine why anyone wouldn't give a revision letter a shot either - but some people don't. It seems madness to me. Maybe it's fear? Maybe it's been a while since they've visited that story and have moved on since then? Who knows? I'm just glad I got through the tears and snotters!

  4. Hi Annie, the nutting out is the hard part. Sometimes I think I'm nailing the revisions - other times I realise I have to start again. Thank goodness it's not just me! You've no idea how reassuring it is to see someone like you say it can be tough!

  5. Hi Scarlet,
    Thanks for blogging about this so honestly. I'm trying to get published with Harlequin/Mills and Boon and the words "four rounds of revisions" gives me hope. :-) I've had a few sets of revisions on my pending manuscript (some on the partial, one on the full) and am holding my breath after sending it in again in January, hoping to hear more.
    A lot of my non-writer friends got indignant on my behalf when they heard I've received revisions, but it's not as if anyone can do their job perfectly, particularly when they're learning a new job!
    Besides, I'll take revisions over rejection any day ;-)

  6. Jill, best of luck on your revisions. The revision emails can be confusing and I found it best if I sat down and wrote a bullet point list of what they wanted me to change. Then I went back and ticked everything off as I did it. It made things much simpler for my easily confused brain! Hope you get some good news!