Thursday, October 15, 2009

To Revise or Not To Revise

So you've finished a book (or paper). You think it's pretty good. You submit it (or hand in a rough draft). What you get back has a nice note on it telling you it's not what they're looking for. If you're lucky, they make some suggestions for improvement.

What do you do?

This hasn't exactly happened to me yet. When I submitted Star of Justice to Tor six years ago, I got a flat rejection form letter. No biggie. I knew they'd never accept me anyway, and I wasn't concerned about getting published, so it didn't bother me.

Now, though, I will face a choice. If I get rejected, what will I do?

I will not kill myself. I may cry and eat a large Sonic mocha java chiller with mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce and regret it for the rest of the night, but that's probably as far as the pity party will go.

More to the point, as I review Marcher Lord Press's writing tips, what should I do when I find one I violate?

I've said before that writing is a skill and an art form. Rules exist but within those rules is amazing flexibility to communicate.

The wrong choice is to ignore their tips. If these are things they will use to decide if I am the kind of author they can hire, then I must seriously consider their criteria or risk flat rejection. On the other hand, I think it's also wrong to change an entire manuscript just to avoid one publisher's pet peeves. So what do I do?

I, turtle that I am, will proceed with care. I am on vacation, so I will review all of their writing tips today, and then slowly read through Star of Justice and see whether I have good reasons for violating those tips (when I have). If I don't, I will change. If I do, I will leave it as is.

This is the moment when ego can trip up a writer. You get attached to your words, your phrases, your expositing, and you hate letting them go, even if they don't help the story. Don't worry. You will write other beautiful words. If you have too much trouble, do what I do, and save passages in another file for possible use another day. Yes, my ego is that large, but it's a concrete way to clear out clutter and the only way I was able to finish Elementals. Maybe someday I will publish those as deleted scenes or bloopers.

I also encourage you to have some faith in your own ability. After all, it is your story, not the editor's. If you believe you've done something well, leave it alone. One editor, even a very good editor, is not the entire world.

Hmm. I'm going to have to write about the ugly truth of rejection. I keep dancing around it because I wanted to wait until next month, but I can't seem to let it go. Maybe tomorrow, then.

A word of caution: pick your battles carefully. Quibbling over a word choice is nothing compared to changing a major character's personality.

Oh, and to the high schoolers submitting papers, seriously consider your teacher's suggestions, if she makes any. For now, she is the editor you must please and you don't usually get the chance to submit to another house if she doesn't like it.

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