Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Revisions: Nice and Slow

Technique Tuesday

Recently, agent Jessica Faust offered excellent advice on responding to revision requests from agents.

She wrote her post after @agentgame tweeted, "I've gotten back revisions on an overly fast turnaround that damaged the book rather than making it better."

Jessica says she understands why authors might be anxious to respond quickly (e.g., fear she'll lose interest or hope to appear responsive), but cautions:
"getting it back to me quickly isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good if what you send back is in even worse shape than the first version. If you think it had to be perfect before, now it has to be even better than perfect. There aren’t many second chances in life. When you get one, use it wisely."
I found the second of her suggestions for handling a revision request particularly illuminating:
"Remember that revisions to a submission are only just the tip of the iceberg. Revision letters to my clients can be pages and pages long. I’m not going to spend that time on a submission. Therefore, you have to carefully read between the lines. Look at what I’m saying and then beyond that, and fix it all."
I encourage you to read the entire post.

In the spirit of using second chances well, there's another reason not to rush your response to a request for revisions.

We advise writers to let some time pass between completing a draft and diving into revisions so that they can approach their work with fresh eyes.

There's a similar dynamic with readers: over time the specifics of a story fade into a general impression. The agent who asks for a revision clearly wants to see the project again. Why squander the opportunity to have them take a second look at it with fresh eyes?

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. That last bit is particularly insightful.

  2. Thank you.

    I had the epiphany while working through some revisions of my own. There were sections that were much stronger than I remembered.

    And it's not that we're trying to trick anybody. Rather, we want to do a thorough enough job of revising that our readers, particularly agents and editors, will be willing to reconsider the manuscript in its entirety.


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