Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tackling the Revise + Resubmit Request

You're waiting for news from an agent or editor, and that anticipated name finally appears in your inbox. But what if it isn't a yes or a no? Besides the obvious answers, there's a different option: A revise and resubmit request.

Whether there's an element of your story that needs to be tweaked or a structural component that doesn't meet the requirements for a particular line, this typically means they see promise in your project but would like to see how you change certain things before they commit. Sometimes this happens in a pitch meeting or query response. Other times, they will send full editorial notes like they would for one of their own clients.

Since I'm working on one as we speak, here are my top tips for dealing with a revise and resubmit request:

Number one and most important, this is -- more often than not -- a good thing. Nothing to be upset about at all. Yes, it's more work to put into a project you've probably already spent a considerable amount of time shaping up to send off in the first place. But it will be worth it. Remember that this means your story made this agent/editor think and that he or she is invested in the idea enough to respond thoughtfully to you out of the hundreds of submissions in any given week.

But you don't have to take the advice. Revise and resubmit requests are great opportunities to show how teachable and creative you are with constructive criticism (an editor's dream author). If you've made every attempt to be open-minded and discussed it with trusted people who know your work and you still feel these suggestions don't seem like a good fit with your vision, then it might be best to move on. If their suggestions are so extensive that the structural integrity of your story is lost (and it's no longer your own story), then maybe you'd be a better match with a different agent/editor. But more than likely, a reputable industry professional will give you suggestions to bring out the best in your story and make it a mutual fit, especially if you know this individual has worked with authors whose work resonates with you. Don't be afraid to ask if it's all right to run your revision ideas by the agent/editor before you begin, but make sure you have a good handle on them first to present them cohesively. (And if you have an agent, make sure to get his or her approval to contact an editor first!) Experiment with the changes. See if they resonate with you and give your story life. Then proceed accordingly.

When undertaking this kind of edit, you can never go wrong with a good checklist. If a request seems daunting (Mine was two pages long!), make a list with each change along with action items that can accomplish it. What backstory and plot points need to be changed? Does any of this change your characters' essence or how they would react to things? What questions need to be answered as these changes unfold? What plot points will each change affect later in the story? Having a roadmap or sorts is a tremendous reference as you implement these changes in each chapter and a great way to keep things organized! Plus, the accomplishment of checking things off never gets old.

Here's what mine looks like:

Have you ever gotten a revise + resubmit request? What are some ways you know an editor/agent/critique partner's advice will benefit your story? How do you tackle a big rewrite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is passionate about intentional living, all things color-coded, and stories of grace in the beautiful mess. Previously a full-time book publicist, she owns a freelance copywriting, editing, and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She's a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a two-time Genesis Award winner, and the runner-up in the 2015 Lone Star Contest's Inspirational category. 
Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary.

You can connect with Laurie here:
Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson


Robin E. Mason said...

"What plot points will each change affect later in the story?" HOLY MOLY!!! as pantser and an indie this question is what scares me most about revise and resubmit!!! i'm open to constructive criticism (if grudgingly) but then to have to go back and adjust the whole fabric..... YIKES!!

good info Laurie, and something to consider—and be open to—when it's needed!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Great points Laurie. I did have someone suggest a different ending. The ripple affect was pretty big...but so worth it. The story reads much better and I was grateful for the suggestion. The details are the key. Mapping them out like you said is so important.

Thanks, Laurie!

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Robin - Yes! It does seem daunting at first, but it's really not. This is your story you love and that loves you back we're talking about here!

@Mary - An agent at conference suggested a revision like that for me, and I experimented and loved it, so I went with it. THEN when Rachel called me to talk about representation, she suggested the same, and I was able to tell her, "Already done!" hahaha!

kaybee said...

Laurie, this is good advice. I've never received a revise-and-resubmit, but I hope I would take it seriously because these are professionals and know more than I do. I'd probably balk at changing the structural integrity or the overall vision, but if an editor asked me to do that they're probably someone who wouldn't fit with me in the long run. I would concentrate on the "resubmit" part -- that someone thinks enough of my work to give it another chance, and that even if they don't accept it, it will ultimately be made better.
Kathy Bailey

Carla Laureano said...

Excellent post, Laurie! And I would add...this is a great sneak peek of what it's like to work with that particular editor or really, any editor. I've completely rewritten three out of my seven published (or soon to be published) books based on editorial feedback. It does get easier!

Anonymous said...

Such great points--SO appreciate it, Laurie. :)

Laurie Tomlinson said...

@Kathy - That's an excellent philosophy to have!

@Carla - Thank you! Excellent advice :)

@Meghan - You bet <3

Cara Putman said...

I have so gotten these! And a heart that's willing to find the gold in the letter is key! When I've done the work, those have turned into books: Canteen Dreams (are you willing to tweak this -- first book), Deadly Exposure (much bigger rewrite- second book), and my next book (We're not sure the heroine is working -- 23rd book, I think). It is so worth diving in and taking it as good news. You are one step closer!