Last week, things were a bit hectic. We were pulling up our old floor and carpet to lay down new floors and on Thursday, I flew across the country for a family party. It should be no surprise, then, that I got my revision notes for my forthcoming book from my publisher! I’m guessing there must be some kind of Murphy’s Law that says editors need changes just when you have the least amount of time to do them.
Okay. Truthfully, I’m exaggerating a little. I don’t find revisions too stressful. I discovered a few “rules” long ago that have really helped. I thought I’d share them today.
Carmella’s Six Rules for Revision Notes
Take Some Time. When I first get my notes, I take a few minutes to scan them and then put them away. Seeing how much work needs to be done can be downright discouraging. (I once got to comment number 100 before the editor had something good to say! Ouch.) Giving myself a few days to whine and feel sorry for myself helps me get all those grumpy feelings – which drain my energy away from work – out of the way.
Give In. Once I’m into the nitty gritty of things, I try to remember there are going to be battles worth fighting and those that aren’t. If it’s not important (like a word choice that doesn’t change the meaning or voice) I make the change the editor wants. It’s just not worth the time or energy to struggle over these little things.
Stand Up and Back It Up. Some battles *are* worth fighting. For instance, facts need to be accurate. (Ditto for illustrations. I once had to point out how several illustrations in one of my non-fiction book galleys were flat out wrong. They were revised in the end.) When the editor wants me to change something so drastically that it doesn’t sound like me, I tend to dig my heels in. It’s *my* name on the cover. I’ve found that as long as I have a good reason to keep something as is, most editors will be respectful and agreeable. Which brings me to my next rule:
Editors Are Our Friends. An editor’s job is to make the book the best it can be. If you look at them as partners as opposed to adversaries, things go more smoothly. And it makes all that red ink or endless comments and questions a little easier to swallow. It really isn’t personal. It’s business.
Go Slow. I find that focusing on one page or chapter at a time makes my revisions manageable. If I even *look* at the notes that are coming up, I tend to panic. One word, one sentence, one change at a time.
Let It Go. When I’m done, I’m done. No book will ever be perfect, no matter how much fine-tooth combing I do and no matter how many proofreaders go through it. Mistakes and typos happen. For instance, there is a slight mathematical error in my book “Great Ancient Egypt Projects You Can Build Yourself.” Everyone missed it. But it’s also my best-selling book so I let it go. ** I’d just drive myself crazy if I dwelled on all the things that I felt still needed fixing. (**Note: sometimes I turn the error to my advantage when visiting schools by challenging older readers to find it or give a mini math lesson on the spot.)