How to Revise with an Edit Letter: Part One

My fabulous agent Kirsten did not miss a beat and just days after signing me, she spit out a pretty epic edit letter.

I’m not going to lie, when I read it I had a mixture of feeling like this:

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and then this:

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She had some very specific things she’d like to see addressed and although they aren’t huge, they are the kind of changes that have ripple effects. In other words, the first half of the book is going to get a pretty serious overhaul.

So how do you even begin to tackle a revision based on an edit letter?

Here is what I decided to do, part one.

First off, don’t do anything for a day or two. Keep reading the edit letter and start revising in your mind. I’m serious about this one. Just stew on it for a day or two.

For practical purposes, I pulled my revision plan together from three sources: the venerable Susan Dennard who’s writing advice is beyond amazing, Beth Revis who’s writing guide Paper Hearts is a must read for all writers and then one of my CPs Alexa Donne who has some pretty kick butt blog posts on revising.

The first thing I did was print out my entire MS and put it in a binder (though it’s also fun to get it bound!) I was trying to save on paper/printing costs, so I shrunk it down to 10pt font and put it in single space. That helped cut down the pages printed by over half. I could do that because I wasn’t actually looking to revise on the page, but just read.  I’m sure you could do this just by reading on your computer or maybe transferring it to your Kindle, but I wanted the option of scribbling on the page and I also revise a lot by hand. (Note: you’ll also need to revise your novel in 10pt/single space at the beginning because you’ll want your notes to match up, so keep that in mind.)

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I then read my edit letter probably 10-15 times. I wanted to get her suggestions down deep so that as I was reading through, I would know what to look for without having to reference the letter. The same goes for the plot/setting things she pointed out as well.

Then I had a separate blank sheet of paper for every main character (and plot relevant minor character) as well as a page for plot problems and setting problems.

As I read through my entire MS, I was looking for areas where I could deepen a character POV, flesh out a reaction, make the characters fuller. Instead of marking the manuscript, I would just mark it on the corresponding sheet. With plot/setting, I was looking at where I needed to implement my agent’s suggestions and would mark it down on the sheet. I also would mark paragraphs/dialogue in the MS that I didn’t like with “re-work.”

For example, on my plot page, I would write: “On page 47, get rid of “Roger” character and replace with Liam to tie in better with the Initiative.” For a character, I would write down, “Soften the Senator’s reaction on page 6, give him a moment where he is kinder to Willow in this scene.”

Note that I didn’t actually do any revising yet, I just plotted out on a broad scale where I would revise things.

So that is part one!

I’m writing this blog series as I go, so I’ll know what worked and what didn’t.

Up next on my plan? NOTECARDS 🙂

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