Writer's Life: Musing on Notes & Revision
Writing is revising! Here's some insight.
It’s official—my amazing agent read my manuscript of my new 150k book in less than a week! She LOVES it, but I have a few remaining notes to address before we take a shot and go out to publishers. Often when we think of a writer, we think of someone facing the blank page and spinning stories out of thin air. But what most “non” writers don’t know is this … we spend more time often revising than first drafting.
At first this can seem daunting, especially when you get notes back on a draft from an industry professional, like an agent or editor. But the more you write, the more you realize that notes and revision are your friends! They’re one of the most critical parts of the writing process and getting to that publish-ready draft.
Let’s dive into it!
When I first started writing, the idea of revising a whole novel intimidated me. All those pages, all those words … is it any good? Where do I even start? Now that I’m 15+ books deep into my author career, I love revision passes more than drafting.
The first draft is like making the clay, and once you’ve laid in the character voices and arcs and a nice skeleton for the story (the structure), then you can go in an really shape everything. Revision is where everything deepens and improves and gets stronger and tighter, fortifying that foundation and polishing up the whole building.
All writers—even the fanciest, most prestigious authors—revise their drafts. They also have agents and editors who give them notes. In fact, the reason some authors earlier books are “better” … and not as much once they get big … it’s because people are afraid to edit them as much. But editors and notes are your friends!
Getting comfortable with revising your work is critical to a career in writing. Also, the skill of being able to take feedback/notes and incorporate them into the draft is also super important. Many agents look for this skill when considering signing you as a client. Often, they’ll give you an R&R. That means … revise and resubmit.
Partially, they want to see if you’re able to take direction and feedback. A good client is one who has revision skills. R&R’s can also come from editors at publishing houses. If you receive this request, take it seriously … it means they want to see the manuscript again after you do the revision pass. They don’t give them to be nice.
They’re interested in your book!
In a later post, I’ll talk more about practical tips for tackling a novel revision. Now, I’m more thinking about the psychology of it. While it can feel like a lot to get notes, if they’re coming from a supportive and knowledgeable source, they’re meant to help you … and your draft. My agent is on my team. Our interests align. We want the best book possible to sell to a publisher. I have to trust her expert judgement.
That will give my crazy, epic little book the best chance to land a publishing deal with a great editor. My last pass was a bigger revision pass incorporating her first batch of notes and trimming/tightening the draft down. Thankfully, that worked!
Now, this is more of a “polish” pass to clean up the draft. Tackle typos, dropped words, and those pesky little continuity issues. As happens a fair amount with my book drafts, mostly because I set so much into motion, I’m likely going to add two chapters to the end to pay off and wrap up some plot/character points. One from each character’s POV. But I’m excited — writing the resolution is super fun.
I figure it’s always a good sign when your reader wants MORE. Other good signs? Typically, it takes an agent a month or more to read a draft, especially of this massive size. The less than a week turnaround tells me something important. The book both hooks the reader … and it’s a page-turner like my other books.
As I always advise my students, I let the notes settle for a day or two … and then I’ll dive back into the manuscript. A good revision should take 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, I also have to draft a short story for an anthology. I’ll report back as I make progress through the polish pass.
What are your thoughts on revision? I’d love to hear from you. Drop comments and stay tuned … more posts coming soon. Happy writing!
Lovely post! I actually really enjoy revising - makes me feel like the book is actually becoming the book I want it to be :)