Working Hard to Make Edits Easier

In my last post, “Excited about Edits,” I talked about receiving the edits on my debut novel from my publisher. In her comment on the post, my friend and agency mate Sarah Forgrave asked a great question about my experience.

I’m curious to know if all your work in rewriting the book for your agent paid off in your editor letter. In other words, did you feel like you had less changes than average since you’d invested so much time and effort BEFORE submission?

Thanks for your question, Sarah.

Yes. The rewriting I did for my agent was a major factor, but there were more.

I wrote the story, my third, during my first year of writing when I was a fluorescent green newbie. I submitted it to an agent, who requested the full. She said the story lacked a strong enough spiritual arc, so I rewrote it and added a conversion story that was as subtle as a billboard with neon lights and sound, and received a prompt–but well deserved–rejection.

I put that story aside and wrote two more. A confidence crisis of epic proportions followed, during which time I took a year off to study craft.

At the end of that year, I took a look at my five completed manuscripts and determined that Miles and Elenora’s story showed the most promise. It needed a new beginning, so I rewrote a quarter of it–and ditched the conversion story.

After implementing Anne’s great feedback, I entered the story in several contests, which led to an offer of representation from one of my final round judges–my Dream Agent.

My agent gave me awesome feedback, pointing out a major plot problem a quarter of the way into the story. That led to the major rewrite Sarah mentioned, in which I deleted three-quarters of the story and rewrote it.

Six months later, I sent the story to Anne and my new critique partner, Jody Hedlund. They gave me excellent feedback. I rewrote half of the story because the middle sagged.

I sent the new and improved story to my agent, who said it was ready to submit. She did, and it sold six weeks later.

A year passed, and I didn’t look at the story. Not even a peek.

And then came the email saying my story had been assigned to an editor. Because I’d not read it in a year, I reacquainted myself with it and noticed a number of things that needed tweaking. I performed a self-edit and sent a cleaner copy of the story to my publisher.

My efforts paid off. My edits were minimal.

Why?

I put tonz of work into the story before my editor saw it. I’d rewritten the story multiple times, and it had been edited by my agent and my two critique partners. Plus I edited it once more myself just for good measure.

Each publishing house does things differently and each author’s experience with edits is unique. What I’ve learned is that the more work we put in before we submit, the less work we’ll have to do after. I’m a firm believer in the value of rewriting our stories and getting feedback from knowledgeable people and publishing pros.

• • •

What steps do you take to get your stories ready for submission?

Have you ever performed a major rewrite? How did it go?

Does the thought of receiving edit scare you?

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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20 Responses to Working Hard to Make Edits Easier

  1. Edits scare me because mine tend to be extensive, but once I complete them, I’m always happy with the outcome.

  2. Wendy says:

    Okay, first…what a gorgeous pic. of Sarah! Oh my! Second, love your edit story. You’re an inspiration for us all!

    I’ve had a dozen read throughs/pick aparts/chop downs, but I can’t say I’ve officially completed a major reworking. A chunky one, but not major.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Keli, I think the key to your post is simple. The more work we put in up front, the less we might need to do later. Sounds like a good formula for more than just our writing. Yes, I rewrite, revise, edit and rewrite again. Some foolishly believe that if you “have” to rewrite too many times, or if you need one more edit, that it is a sign of poor writing. I believe you have nailed the issue … it is really a sign of good writing to revise and rewrite to make our work excellent 🙂

  4. My agent contacted me and asked if I would change a few things in my novel. One, she felt I had some unnecessary POVs–there for convenience, two, bring my POV switches down to two per chapter and polish up some grammar errors. She was spot on! I re-worked it, gave it off to critique partners and then did another round of editing. I re-submitted and a couple of months later, she offered me representation! I’m sure there will be several things an editor will want changed, but it’ll be less than if I hadn’t revised upon the request of my agent. (nor would I have an agent ;)) Great post, Keli!

  5. Wow, this makes me tired! I’ve only just finished the first draft of my first ms, so nope, never done a rewrite. I have had a few chapters critiqued and need to make edits there, but am not really sure at this point whether to spend a lot of time editing this one or moving on to get the experience of writing another.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Lindsay, my critique partner, Jody Hedlund, had a great post on this subject a while back. I’ll share my thoughts in an upcoming post.

  6. I love that picture of Sarah!!

    Yes, Keli, I always am inspired by your story of perseverance.

  7. the writ and the wrote says:

    I’m just starting rewrites of my second novel. I have a long way to go, but I am plugging away. I’ve just finished round four of edits on my first novel and am close to beginning the submission process. Rewriting doesn’t scare me as much as it overwhelms me.

  8. Loree Huebner says:

    Last fall, I had a professional point something out to me in one of my stories. I took the advice given and rewrote a portion of the story, then edits. I’m so glad that someone took the time to point it out.

  9. Jodi Janz says:

    Thanks Keli for the insight. Rewites scare me. I am staring at one now. A critique partner just recommended I change my POV altogether. That feels like writing a whole new story. I know practicing writing will always help me grow but I fear time wasted to make changes that just need to be changed again. Thank you for helping me to see it from the other side of the coin. Like what ramblinsfromtheleft said, “it is really a sign of good writing to revise and rewrite to make our work excellent”.
    You have helped me today.

  10. Love reading about your experience, Keli!

    You know…..I’m also a firm believer in putting as much effort as we can and producing the best possible book we can before submitting to publishers. Which includes getting feedback from crit partners and making the necessary changes.

    But I’m also learning, through experience, is that even if we hand in an incredibly clean manuscript, that has been heavily edited, that is structured very soundly, that keeps the conflict going on every page…..we still might be in for an edit of epic proportions.

    Not because the story isn’t sound….but because the editor can see what we can’t. My editor is intimately acquainted with my debut novel. She knows and can envision the brand I am creating for myself. So even though my second novel is very well edited and structurally, a super tight story, and even though my critique partners and beta readers all gave very positive feedback…..I’m going to have to rewrite and do a complete story overhaul.

    Why?

    Because the central conflict of story 2 is too similar to the central conflict in story 1. And my brand is very much romance with a heavy dose of women’s fiction. Book 2 was too much plain romance. It lacked the women’s fiction element that book 1 had.

    So…..we all know that story IS conflict. So you can imagine how much I’ll be rewriting when it comes time to change the central conflict. Yikes! I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the revision letter when it comes.

    Great post!

  11. I agree. The work you put into editing before submitting will make the journey smoother. I’ve gone over my story so many times in the past three years, I could probably recite it by heart, lol. Next week, I’ll be talking about my rewrites and the first set of my editor’s recommended changes that I’m currently working on. Love to have your input/!

  12. Imagine scrolling through my blogroll and seeing MY picture on your site, Keli! And then to see the word “agency-mate”….sigh. 🙂

    Thank you so much for answering my question! You’ve given me immense hope. This editing process is oh-so-painful, but I’m clinging to the hope that it will pay off in the long run. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!

  13. Susan Mason says:

    Edits. Right now I loathe that word. I have edited this particular ms so many times, I’m tired of it. Right before Christmas I got a rejection from an agent solely because she didn’t like the way I treated the ending (read only in the synopsis). At first I was a little peeved, but the more I thought about it, I decided to try an alternate ending – just to see if it would work. Am now in the middle of that and feel like I’m spinning my wheels. (My heart is still set on my original ending, but we’ll see if I can come up with something just as good.)

    Edits. URRGGH.

    But thanks for the pep talk. !

    • bethkvogt says:

      Hang in there, Susan! I hope all that spinning your wheels turns into something fun — like maybe doing donuts in a parking lot?!– a little risky but fun.

  14. bethkvogt says:

    First, I am in agreement that Sarah is a beauty, inside and out. Her blog is a must-read for me.

    Edits: Well, I am known (affectionately, I am assured) as The Evil Editor (TEE) by my writing buddies. So, I like to edit. I love to edit. I can’t. get. enough. of. edits.
    Which can create a problem because it can slow down my forward motion.
    I have to put the red pen down and gag my internal editor and just write the story.
    However, I do believe writing is rewriting. I welcome feedback throughout the entire process to publication. I believe the “eyes” have it, i.e. other people see what I don’t.

  15. Julie Nilson says:

    Interesting to hear that it works this way with novels, because I find this to be very true in my corporate freelance writing too. The version I submit to my editors/clients is the version that I think is *finished.* The editors occasionally make some minor changes or ask for little additions here and there, but I never get asked for major rewrites. My editors tell me that a lot of people submit 1st drafts, which means that then the editor has to do a lot of work requesting and reviewing changes, which negates the whole point of hiring a writer! The fact that my work doesn’t require much from my editors is one of the reasons they keep hiring me, I think–so I hope this means that your editors and publishers will be inclined to request many more books from you. 🙂

  16. Brittany says:

    I just started editing my first MS. I can tell already that it is going to be a huge learning experience!

  17. hmmm….as a seat of the pants writer, i perform a rewrite almost every time i sit down and reread the thing. ugh. but i’m a liberated woman for being an SOTP. it’s okay!! and there are others like me!! 🙂

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