How to tackle ‘Revise and Resubmit?’


How do you go about doing a Revise & Resubmit?

R & R’s or revise and resubmit is what I believe a step up from an outright rejection. It’s where an editor/agent/publisher/ reviews your manuscript and thinks it’s salvageable if you make changes as per their suggestions.

They could be one line suggestions or a boatload of them, but R&R’s are particularly helpful for your manuscript. Because it tells you two things:

A. The manuscript is worth something.

B. What can make it better?

I know it’s heartbreaking to see another rejection, “Sorry, not for me right now, but if you could do/add/subtract/edit…” When you see that but, you can be assured that the editor or agent has seen some diamond within all that carbon spun around it.

I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to work with journals and editors where feedback was given on rejections. I’ve had 6 revise and resubmit’s over the last year. One was published, “Where is Ally?” One was sold to another site, “The Last Communication.” One is out with publishers. I’m still waiting to hear detailed suggestions from one, where I’ve been asked to R&R and I’m working on the other two.

First, don’t even debate whether you’re going to follow the R & R. Too many people think that it’s a waste of time. If an editor/agent took the time to make notes and send you an email when they could have simply clicked reject then you should be taking it seriously.

Second, nobody is out to mangle your story. I know this is your baby, you want to dress it, groom it and prime it the way you feel best. But let’s face it, the end goal is to get this story out there. If something has to change, then do it. Don’t complain about the suggestions. You can still “do it your way.”

Different people have different styles of revision, but I’ll tell you how I go about it.

Read, close and vent: This is my usual reaction when I see my edits. My BP climbs and I feel the need to eat lots of chocolate or chips. It hurts. Because not only they did they reject me, but how can they tell me to kill one of my characters. So read your R & R. I would say, give it a glance and set it aside.

Re-read and analyze the notes: After your period of mourning, print out the notes or open it on MS Word and read them. Study them. What are the suggestions? Tone? Plot? Voice? Punctuation? Character development. You will see major issues and then there will be minor ones.  Sometimes it could be very general and vague. Other times it will be highly detailed and specific.  Make your own notes here. Divvy up the major issues. I usually do this a week to a month after I get my R & R because I like to start fresh with no emotion.

Read your manuscript: As if you’re seeing it for the first time. Yes, read it as if you bought this from a book store/ E-store after having paid 4 bucks for it.  Don’t make notes. You will be sorely tempted, but don’t. Just read.

Reader feedback: Once you finish reading, you will beat yourself up as to how you let such dreadful mistakes slip through your fingers. And you passed that slippery manuscript to an editor/agent. How did you not see what the editor/agent saw? Because you know she’s right. Hence the R & R.

Go back to those notes you made and add all the general things you thought was wrong with the book to your R &R notes. Ponder on it. When you’re cooking, cleaning and doing mundane things, think about how you can make it better. Give this a few days to let the ideas brew.

Schedule: Once you have notes on the general stuff, look up the word count. Whatever it is ,divide it by 10. You need to set a daily editing goal. This is very important.

You can change this number to whatever you like, but I like ten, because anything over ten days and I start forgetting what the beginning of my chapter looks like. Heck, I can’t even remember the place. Blue eyes become green and sometimes Bea becomes Lea. Sigh. This is easily possible if you’re handling multiple writing projects at a time.

Re-writing: With a deadline, in mind, you’re truly on your way to R & R. Start editing on a copy of your MS. Don’t use your original. You never know if you will need the extra words from there later or if an agent accepts that version while you’re working on the R & R. I focus on editing chapter by chapter.

Start with the first pages and then build, layer, chop and weave. You may have to add details. You may have to cut out words. For “Where is Ally?” my free story, I was asked to take out 3000 words. Gasp. Yup. And I did. The story is so much better without all that clutter. Whereas for a current manuscript, I’ve been asked to add another 20,000 words. Phew, that’s a lot. Depending on your suggestions work your way through the chapters.

Set aside: After you finish your marathon R&R. Set aside for two weeks, four is better. Put your feet up and forget all about the story.

Re-read: Now re-read your notes and your work. Have some of the major issues been dealt with? Is it revised suitably to the suggestions? Make more notes about the finer problems.

Re-edit: This will go much faster, but edit again in the same time frame, but with the finer points in mind.

Rinse and repeat the last two steps twice and then set aside for two weeks.

Final read/Beta read: Either give to your CP’s or read it yourself before resubmitting.

This takes about 4- 5 months for novellas. If it’s a short story, I’d say two months. Most editors will only accept your work after 6 months of R & R.

By breaking down the work into chapter chunks and making a schedule, you will be able to streamline your R & R’s. Of course, how you do it depends on your individual writing style but this is what helps me best.

What about you? Do you have any neat tricks for tackling R & R’s?





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