Thursday, October 3, 2013

Revising For an Editor or Agent: Part I

Revising your story for an agent or editor can be a little different than revising for yourself. Between the six of us MiG writers, we've had lots of experience with making big and small changes to strengthen our work and make it more saleable. Today's thoughts are from writer/illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi, MG author Carmella Van Vleet and children's writer Andrea Mack. And stay tuned for what editor Kate Fall and YA author Christina Farley have to say tomorrow [Revising for an Agent or Editor Part 2].

Debbie says:

When I'm revising for an editor (rather than for myself), I have a better overall picture of what needs to be changed. I'm also more confident that the changes are needed. My editor at Simon & Schuster BFYR always emphasizes that his suggestions for changes are always just that...suggestions. I believe there's a lot of trust in a good author-editor relationship.
I think I have a tendency to over-revise when revising for myself, plus I'm too close to the work to get an objective sense of the bigger picture. This is when having trusted writers critique my mss is so valuable…like the MiG Writers! :-) 
Debbie Ridpath Ohi illustrated I'M BORED, a picture book written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster BFYR). Her illustrations next appear in NAKED! by the same author, coming out from Simon & Schuster next May.

Andrea says:

Having an agent or editor's suggestions to think about while I'm revising gives me a whole different perspective on my writing. I love seeing the "big picture" view that someone else has on my story, especially when they get the essence of what I'm trying to say (even if I don't have the words to express it myself).
Sometimes, when I'm sitting at my desk spending hours revising, I can get lost in the small details. Re-reading an editorial letter reminds me to take a step or two back and look at the overall goals for my characters.
Andrea Mack writes middle grade fiction, picture books and beginning readers.

Carmella says:

Whether I’m revising for my own satisfaction or for an editor, my revision process is typically the same. That’s because the goal is always the same - to tell the best story possible. 

First, I typically read through something looking for “big picture” things that need addressing. For instance, are the characters engaging? Are they goals clear and relatable? Is the plot moving at a decent pace? Is it believable? Am I achieving the emotional tone I want? I’ll take notes and then make a list. Sometimes I’ll address these things one at a time but since I tend to be linear writer, I usually address them as they come up and I move through the manuscript. 

Next, I work on finer details. Things like chapter length or dialogue. I look for places where I can combine chapters or scenes to tighten the pace. Or places to cut dialogue or description that’s not progressing the story. 
Finally, I work on those line edits - overused words, wrong words, confusing or awkward phrasing, spelling errors. 

The only difference in my approach for an editor is that I’m considering someone else’s suggestions. That kind of feedback is incredibly valuable and I always try to keep an open mind. But, ultimately, I listen to my gut. If something an editor (or agent or critique partner) says resonates with me, then I make the change. If not, then I don’t. To keep my writing on track, I write first thing in the morning. Well, okay, maybe not FIRST thing. I do like to check my emails and Facebook. But I find that if I turn on the TV or start a project or running errands, I never really get back to writing. I think my inner critic sleeps in late, too. So working before she's fully awake really helps the creative flow as well.

 Carmella Van Vleet writes MG fiction and "hands-on" non-fiction. Her debut MG novel, ELISA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER, will be released in Spring 2014 from Holiday House.

Share your thoughts and tips on revising for an editor vs. revising for yourself in the comments and check back tomorrow to see what author Christina Farley and editor Kate Fall have to say!

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