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Taming the Revisions Beast

By Andrea Boeshaar

Recently I received revisions for a novel slated to release next year. I gasped, as I usually do, when I opened the document and saw more red on the page than black (the red being my editor’s remarks and corrections and the black, my writing.) It’s amazing how good I feel about a manuscript when I turn it in only to be knocked off my high horse when those beastly edits show up in my inbox.

On one hand, I’m extremely grateful that my editor found the mistakes, inconsistencies, and other problems in my story, but on the other hand I wish I would have seen them before I turned in my manuscript.

That’s an impossibility, however, and I’m sure many authors can relate to my plight. So how can we tame the revisions beast?

Actually, I think there are three ways to accomplish the feat.

First: Find a critique partner. It’s my belief that an author is never good enough NOT to have a critique partner. It may take you a while and some partnerships might not fit, but don’t give up. Keep searching for the right crit partner. Now, I do understand that it’s time consuming to read someone else’s manuscript when you’re under a tight deadline, but it’s time well spent. Your editor will appreciate your sacrifice. ACFW offers a critique group from which authors can meet others and eventually form a partnership. That should be the goal, to form a partnership with another author. Look for someone who “gets” your writing and for someone who is at your same writing/publishing level.

Secondly: Keep an open mind. Early in my writing career I let the editing process upset me. I argued with editors — which is a BIG NO-NO. Fortunately, I didn’t ruin my writing career because I learned from my mistakes and changed my behavior quickly. Presently my rule for edits is this: Unless it’s a hill to die on make the change. In other words, if your editor requests that you tweak or change a thread in your storyline, do it. If she/he wants you to get rid of a character, say goodbye and make the change. The character can always show up in another book. In my novel A Thousand Shall Fall, my editor requested that I kill off Carrie Ann’s youngest sister. Kill her off? But I loved Sarah Jane. I discussed the matter with my editor (and yes writers can do that if they maintain professionalism and don’t get defensive) and…well, you’ll have to read my book to find out how I handled Sarah Jane’s fate. But my point is: Don’t get argumentative or defensive and seriously consider all revision requests. That goes for both critique partners and editors. You might just end up with a best-seller.

Thirdly: Learn from every critique or edit. Presently I have book contracts with three publishers. Each has guidelines and editing processes. For instance, two publishers let me push the envelope when it comes to my characters’ spiritual walks and the romance between heroes and heroines. One publisher is more conservative about the matters. Another publisher doesn’t allow naming my characters’ motor vehicles (i.e. Ford Escape, Chevy Corvette, etc.). My other two books are historical novels so if I end up with a motor vehicle in those books, I’m really in trouble! But, seriously, it’s my job as an author to not only familiarize myself with my publishers’ guidelines but write within those frameworks. It’s not my job to press the publisher so the rules can be changed. It is my job, however, to turn in well-written books that are appropriate for my publishers.

And yes, even if I feel my work is well-written and it passes my critique partner’s critical eye, those beastly revisions will come. I would be shocked and skeptical if they didn’t. But here is where authors can show off their professionalism. The revisions beast will growl, roar, and claw from the second you open the document from your editor. But don’t fight back or insert snarky comments for your editor to see. Don’t fuss, argue or fight back. Simply resign yourself to making the following:

• Making the necessary changes
• Asking and/or discussing important issues with your editor without being defensive
• Returning your manuscripts in a timely manner

That, my friends, is how you tame the revisions beast.

Andrea BoeshaarAndrea Boeshaar has been married for nearly 40 years. She and her husband have 3 wonderful sons, 1 beautiful daughter-in-law, and 5 precious grandchildren. Andrea’s publishing career began in 1994. Since then, 31 of her books have gone to press. Some have been best-sellers. Additionally, Andrea co-founded ACFW and served on its Advisory Board for a number of years. In 2007, Andrea earned her certification in Christian Life Coaching. She’s now the purveyor of Steeple View Coaching for Writers. For more information, log onto her website: www.andreaboeshaar.com
LIKE her Facebook: www.facebook.com/Andrea.Boeshaar
Follow her on Twitter: @AndreaBoeshaar

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One Response to Taming the Revisions Beast

  1. I once received 269 comments on a 289 page manuscript. 🙂 It was my first romance story without suspense and granted, not all the comments were about changing something. But most of them were. 🙂 I learned so much from that revision!