Guest Blog by Kiki Hamilton: The Black Hole of Editorial Revisions

February 23rd, 2010 • Kate

black-holeGreetings from the Black Hole of Editorial Revisions!

For the first-time author, the path to publication can feel like you’ve been sucked into a black hole of unknowns after you write the words ‘The End’. You’ve written a novel, now what? There are certain milestones of which most writers are aware as they attempt to get their book prominently positioned on the local bookstore shelves: write your novel, find an agent, sell your book – that part we all know about. But there is a crucial next step that may not be as familiar: Editorial Revisions. *revisions – revisions – yes, that’s an echo you hear….and there’s probably a reason for it….*

Editorial revisions are the step where the editor (who loves your book so much that they’ve paid good green cash for it – never forget this part) goes through the manuscript and provides the author with his or her suggestions, (usually on every page) on how to improve the writing to make the book publishable. Then you rinse and repeat. Several times.

At first glance, when you receive your marked-up manuscript and notice that all available white space on the pages are filled with bubbles of editing comments – it might seem a little daunting. *cough cough* But fear not – the tales of heads exploding from editorial revisions are grossly exaggerated. … I think.

But joking aside, I am finding these revisions to be a fantastic learning opportunity. I view them as having a personal master class in writing. A class where you’re the only student, and the teacher is totally focused on giving comments to your work and specifically to the areas on which you need to focus .

I count myself especially lucky because my editor leaves the door open for discussion on any of her suggested changes. And though I’m only about a third of the way through my novel, already we’ve had some fantastic conversations about character motivations, plot development, story arcs and proportion.

What about you? How do you view the revision process? Necessary evil or fascinating insight?

Kiki Hamilton‘s debut novel, The Faerie Ring, will be published by Tor Books in Spring 2011. She is currently working on editorial revisions with her fabulous editor, Susan Chang. Learn more about her and other kt literary clients here.

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12 Responses to “Guest Blog by Kiki Hamilton: The Black Hole of Editorial Revisions”

  1. Carrie Harris Says:

    I've decided to print all my manuscripts with EXTRA white space on the page, so that when editorial comments come in, they don't look that bad. Think it'll work? 🙂

  2. ello Says:

    Great post Kiki! What a great way to look at revisions! It definitely is a fabulous one-on-one learning experience!

  3. callie Says:

    Well…I'm not to the part where the editor revises it yet. I am however, stuck in my own little circle of endless revision hell. Lol.

    I thought my book was ready about a year ago. Then I joined a critique group. On their excellent advice, I started "revising" and, ten months later, I'm halfway through rewriting the book.

    I figure I should be done in about another six months.

    Even after all of that, I don't mind how many revisions an editor gives me. I'd be so excited to have an editor want my book that I'd be willing to do whatever I needed to!

  4. Kathy McCullough Says:

    This was a great post! (As I fret and wait for my revisions letter to come.) I like the idea of treating it as a master class. (Also like Carrie's idea of extra white space.) Have you had the follow-up "conversations" with your editor on the phone or via email?

  5. Paula Says:

    Great discussion, Kiki.

    I imagine revisions with an editor are a completely different experience than any kind of revision I’ve done on my own. One I hope to experience myself someday soon.

    As to what I like better, I’d have to say I enjoy both parts of the process. When I'm stuck going forward, sometimes I can regain momentum by revising. I do have to say, when revising a full manuscript it gets tough at times, but oh so satisfying once completed!

  6. Kelly Says:

    Of course I am looking forward to having the chance for an agent or editor to tweak my manuscript. For now, my critique group helps me. Then on my own, I dread revisions until I actually sit and do them, then I love how my story has improved.

  7. Kristi Says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with revisions. I hate it while I'm doing it but love the end result. My dream is to one day have editorial comments all over it — I'll be happy to revise again once I make it that far!

  8. Mechelle Fogelsong Says:

    When I finish a manuscript, I make 6 to 12 hard copies and pass them out to people in my community. Not just anyone, mind you. Because I write YA, I always include 3 or 4 teen editors, to edit my "teenspeak". If there's an action scene with cops, I ask a local police officer to edit. If there's a scene where an ambulance hauls someone away, I ask an EMT to edit. You get the picture.

    So I suppose I'm just gearing up for the real thing, when an editor finally gets his/her say.

  9. Julia Says:

    Great post, Kiki!

    I have already revised my ms several times – 1) myself, 2) crit partners, 3) agent, 4) while on subs and now am waiting for editorial letter – so this will be the 5th time (also then will be line edits and copy edits – aaack!)

    Writing a book is really "re-writing" a book.

    I'm with you on selfishly loving having an editor all to myself, who is going to help me grow as a writer and produce an awesome book at the same time!

  10. Amy Says:

    Yes! I'm working on a first draft right now and GODDAMN is it easy compared to the gajillion rewrites I've done as of late on my first two books. I firmly believe the work is in the rewriting.

  11. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    Every revision has been well worth it. As long as the manuscript keeps getting better, I'm all about revising. : )

  12. Kiki Hamilton Says:

    Hi Everybody – it's always great to know you're not the only one slogging through revisions!

    Carrie – Ha! more white space – you may live to regret those words!!! You may just get MORE comments! Though I know NO PAIN NO BRAIN is tight so you'll be fine!

    Ello and Callie – you're so right – no matter what stage in the writing process revisions are a necessary part of honing your story and learning more about your characters.

    Kathy – My editor sent me a summary letter that went over some of her suggestions in broad strokes and then also sent line-edited pages which is extremely helpful. But still there is a lot left up to you, the writer, as sometimes the comments are simply 'recast this scene'. And yes, she has been available anytime I've wanted to talk. I'm sure your editor will be too!

    Paula and Kelly – yes, I've been lucky to have great critique partners to review my work too. I would be lost without them. Writing a story happens in layers it seems and you never get it perfect – there's always room for improvement.

    Kristi – " love /hate relationship" with revisions – ha! isn't that the truth!!

    Mechelle – wow that's a fascinating (and brave!) way to get feedback!! I find that some feedback I get applies and other feedback (in critique groups anyway) doesn't necessarily take the manuscript where I want to go, so I ignore it. Do you have a way to sort through the feedback you get from non-writers?

    Julia – "writing is really re-writing" – so so true. One of my writing teachers, Uma Krishnaswami, always said "the work is in the the revision" and it's so true. But then, so is the pearl, right?

    Amy – I've come to love the first draft myself. Just making it up as I go along. 🙂 Now, I have to have it make sense. Two different things entirely!

    Suzanne – perfectly said!

    Thanks for your comments Everybody!!