Revisions—Part 2

Thank you, everyone, for your support and for all your lovely words about the AMERICAN PANDA cover! It was such a wonderful week, and hearing how much the Chinese girl on the cover meant to people meant THE WORLD to me.


Thank you to everyone who reached out to tell me how the Revisions post from last year has helped you! Given this, I thought it might be useful to write a second Revisions post with more tips I learned from revising AMERICAN PANDA with my fabulous editor. I also thought it might be helpful to share some details about the revision process for those curious of how the editor-author relationship works.

Revision Tips

In my previous post, I mentioned color-coding sections (a different color for each of the following issues: awkward wording, repeated words, transitions, verify a fact, new sections). To expand on that, here are a few other benefits with the color-coding system:

  • It’s easy to remove if you’re in the middle of revising and you get a request from an agent. A simple Ctrl+A and changing the text to black will do it.
  • It’s easy to search through the MS for them. You can do an advanced find for color (More–>Format (drop down menu)–>Font–>pick the Font Color you wish to search for).
  • If you use CPs, you can tell them your system and when you exchange work, they’ll know what you’re struggling with at those sections and perhaps they can spend more time on certain parts and help you fix them.

Another great way to flag sections that you need to come back to, ones that require larger overhauls, is to insert a comment bubble. They’re so easy to toggle through by clicking the “Next comment” button under Word’s Review tab, making it extremely easy to get back to these sections. Creating a comment bubble also only takes 1 second so you won’t lose the flow of the task at hand. Plus, you can take notes in the comment bubble.

Sometimes changes only require a few tweaks here and there. Adding a sentence, changing a word choice has a lot of power. Sometimes these changes can take hours to find that one word, and even these small-seeming revisions require several read-throughs to make sure the character arcs, all the little pieces of dialogue are consistent. This can be hard because it’s a lot of work for a seemingly small thing, but I found it was worth the effort.

Another tip: it’s important to take breaks. This is an extension of giving yourself a few days for feedback to sink in. I often needed a few hours, sometimes days to figure out the right solution for fixing something (especially the larger development changes), and the ideas hit when I was only sort-of thinking about my book while doing other things. I hardly ever got an idea by just staring at my manuscript.


Working with my Editor

What I loved:

  • Having someone to bounce ideas off of (this was true with my agent and CPs as well).
  • Hearing not just what wasn’t working, but what was workingthis not only helped in edits to know what to keep and how to expand, but also gave me confidence to keep pushing forward. This is something important to keep in mind while CP-ing and giving feedback to others.
  • She had the amazing ability to articulate issues and make suggestions that made me say Of course! (seriously, out loud, while I read her letters/comments).
  • She made suggestions that set me brainstorming, and provided just enough guidance to get me to the right place while still allowing me the freedom to revise as I saw fit.

Every editor works differently, but for me, we had a combination of edit letters and phone calls, which worked perfectly for me. The entire revision process up to and not including copyedits was about 5 months, with longer turnaround times for the more in-depth first and second rounds. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, but I hope this gives you an idea of how one experience went!

Now, looking back on how much my manuscript has changed in the last two years from its original draft, my mind is blown. The inciting incident has changed. A main character has become a barely-there-side-character. A side character became a main character. The love interest grew from a few chapters to a significant storyline.

Lastly…The Most Important Thing

When revising, remember why you wrote this book. Even though the road can be rocky, you should never forget why you write—because you love it, because you have a story to tell, because you want to give a voice to a truth that only you can tell.

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