Facing a Rewrite

rewrite from commentsNot all rewrites are created equal.  I’ve had a few that were relatively pain-free.  In one instance, the editor needed a few more examples.  In another, I had to rewrite 6 sidebars because I had misunderstood the instructions. Unfortunately, this type of rewrite is the exception.  The one I just finished involved something like 120 comments throughout the manuscript.  Yep.  120 things to fix in a 50 page manuscript.  I’d love to say that I read through the comments and cheered.

The problem is that no matter how good the feedback is 120 comments is overwhelming.  120 comments make you feel like a faker — I’m not really an author; I’m just wearing an author’s hat.

That’s the problem.  Here’s the reality.  Getting past this sense of panic is tough but if you are going to write for a living, you need to learn.  Here are 4 simple steps to help you get the job done.

Realize that you and your editor have the same goal.  You both want to create the best book possible.  Your editor is not trying to drive you crazy with her pickiness.  He is not trying to prove anything.  The goal for you both is an excellent book.

Read and then wait.  I almost never read the letter or comments and then get right to work.  If there’s a lot to be done, it takes a while for it all to settle in my mind so that my changes are directed and focused and not panicky and frantic. If possible, I read the comments/letter and let it germinate for a day.

Reread.  Before getting to work, read it all again.  Now that you’ve calmed down, you’ll process the information differently. You also want to read all of the comments before you get to work.  Many of my editors comment as they work through the manuscript. This means that comment #75 may clarify comment #62.  Read the comments again.  All of the comments.

Be gracious.  Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, you aren’t going to agree with every request.  Fix those you can and be gracious about the rest.  I recently had an editor ask me to change a fact in a piece of nonfiction.  I could see why he thought I was wrong but I had done my reading.  I had to find a way to share my information without sounding like a snot.  It isn’t always easy when you’ve already worked through 52 comments, but find a way to be nice.

I love the process of watching a project come together.  So does my editor.  We are on the same team and it is in my best interest to remember that.