Requested revisions is a phrase that sends strong emotions through authors. Some may think a revision request is a rejection…I’ve heard stories that some simply set the email or letter aside, not realizing exactly what the agent or editor was asking. Others may be offended that anyone would want them to change a word of their precious creation. And others may sigh, knowing a lot more hours of work lie ahead. I see it as an opportunity to make my project stronger, and appreciate having an industry professional willing to take the time and effort to work with me. So when an agent asked me to revise the first 50 pages of one of my manuscripts, I was excited yet slightly unnerved.
She offered a few, very helpful suggestions and guidelines of what she was looking for. Before diving in, I sent the original pages to and discussed her comments with three friends: a two-time New York Times bestseller, a multi-published author, and one who’s as yet unpublished but in the process of writing a book.
Great writing, a great story and characters are in the eyes of the beholder, as is great decorating or fashion. If you tell me an event we’re going to is black tie and I show up in a silver gown, you may find it tacky or tasteful. How much jewelry is too much? Do the pieces go together? We’ve all heard stories of how many times now famous authors were rejected, including Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help …until their project landed on the right desk at the right time.
I pondered for a couple of days. While I understood what she was asking me to do, at first I couldn’t quite see how to apply it to my story while keeping as much as possible of what was already there, which we’d agreed was the goal. I didn’t want to stray down what she thought was the wrong path, so I emailed my plan and quickly got the go ahead. Whew. We were on the same page, so far.
As I reviewed my pages, I wanted to stay in the writing zone and in my character’s head. But it was a challenge not to keep getting pulled out by thinking, “Is this what she meant?” “Is this too much or not enough change?” “Can this scene stay, go, or should it be moved to a different chapter?”
After a final read through, I’ll send the revisions. I’m happy with what remained, what’s new, and what had to go. Time will tell if she agrees….