I loathe writing revision letters but feel very satisfied once I’m finished with one, like I’ve done my job. As I read a manuscript, I take notes with sparkly pen (because I hate taking notes so why not make them pretty) and my comments tend to be unfit for public viewing. On a designated day, I’ll take the manuscript, with its sparkly notes, and reinterpret my ranting scribble into helpful (I hope) feedback.
If the world were a perfect place, all manuscripts that crossed my desk would be ready to edit (or wouldn’t need editing, which would mean unemployment for me, so thank you for any imperfections). I imagine that writers don’t like receiving revision letters either, but expect them.
So can we establish a mutual dread of the revision letter?
Some facts I’ve learned about revisions as an editor and writer:
Diplomacy is nice but writers want direct feedback–page numbers, chapters that need extra work. It would be so easy for me if I could just write: Can you add romantic conflict in this manuscript? Yeah, sure. Like, where?
The longer the revision letter, the greater chance the writer will run for the Maalox. I try to keep letters short (1-3 pages) and sweet–without being too saccharine. Even better if I can do Track Changes in the manuscript itself so the writer can see areas to improve. But not everyone is technological (okay, we’re talking about me here–and Track Changes means no sparkly pen).
Writers can smell BS, so I try not to BS in a revision letter. But I also avoid being unnecessarily critical (which is so easy nowadays, isn’t it?): Ugh, pllleeeeassse, make the heroine stop with her whining!!! I find it’s effective to fashion the revision note in the form of a question: Can you have the hero take off his shirt at the end of Chapter 3?
After writing or reading a revision letter, take time to digest it. When I received a revision letter for my book, I forgot about it for a whole weekend. By the time Monday night rolled around, I was ready to tackle every note and felt good about improving my work (I still needed a Maalox power shake, though).
If I start a revision letter in the morning (with that Nike mantra: Just Do It), chances are it will go out that same morning. Just do it. Write that letter. Go through those revisions, point by point.
We’re all here for the same purpose: to provide the best book possible for your audience. Yes, I have more revisions to request. Will I get that letter out today? Only the sparkly pen knows for sure.