This week we’re talking about edit letters, and today I’m going to talk about what to do WITH your edit letter…concrete strategies to make something that feels overwhelming just a little more manageable. Getting an edit letter is hard. It can sometimes be painful to realize how much work you have left to do. While fishermen sit around comparing the size of the fish they’ve caught, writers sit around and compare the lengths of their edit letters…
My last edit letter was nine pages long!
That’s nothing! I once got one that was TWENTY PAGES LONG! True story. I didn’t sleep for a month.
But what’s the best way to tackle an edit letter?
Step One: Read it all the way through. Several times.
Step Two: Give yourself time to be upset. Call your best writing friend. Complain. Have a glass of wine. Then get over it.
Step Three: Go for a walk.
Step Four: Turn your edit letter into a checklist. Take every note and try to turn it into one actionable sentence with a little box next to it that you can check off. This won’t make the actual revision EASIER. But it will help focus your work.
Step Five: Talk with your editor on the phone. My editor is a big fan of phone conversations. And while I’m not a phone person in general, this made my revision so much easier. If you’ve turned your edit letter into a checklist, then this conversation will add to the checklist you just made. It will clarify points made in the edit letter that perhaps your brain glossed over (or wanted to ignore). The best part is that you and your editor can, together, brainstorm solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. “What if I put Paige in a scene where…” and then get her reaction to that idea. She will build on it. MAKE SURE YOU TAKE COPIOUS NOTES.
Step Six: Pick a place to begin, and then just begin. I like to tackle the harder parts first. The ones that require rewrites and throwing away entire chapters or subplots and writing new ones. The ones that require you to weave whatever elements you need to add (or take out) into writing that already exists. I save my smaller tweaks for last because usually I’m fried by then and I need to be at my most sharp for the big stuff.
Step Seven: After you’ve implemented all of the revisions your editor wants to see, send your manuscript to a trusted reader – WITH THE CHECKLIST – and ask them to read and check the things off they think you’ve accomplished. Tell them to be ruthless. You will be inclined to lie to yourself. To tell yourself it’s mostly done, or close enough. Your readers won’t be as attached to the revisions and they will tell you yes or no definitively.
Deadlines are your friends. Set some weekly goals for yourself. And always remember that while edits seem like a monumental task at first, they go a lot faster if you have a plan for how to handle them.
THE ONES WE CHOOSE is available for preorder!