What happens after a writer gets an acceptance from the publisher? A whole lot of things. There’s the contract to sign, which is fun. The publisher promises to publish your book and even pay you a little money in advance for the right to do so. Yahoo to that. Then comes the editorial letter. Not as much fun as the contract I must admit.
It comes as a surprise to some new writers that their book will require further rewriting beyond all the rewriting they’ve already done. It will-- in most cases. I haven’t heard of many authors not doing at least one revision. Several revisions are more common.
What begins this process is a letter from the editor making suggestions. I’ve received a few of these now from several editors. They’re all different, but they all have some similar qualities. They begin with praise (anyone who is in a critique group knows the importance of this—the fragile writer ego needs a little love). Then the editor mentions some problems he or she thinks the manuscript has. Then he/she says that, of course, the writer should decide which suggestions are helpful to the writer’s vision of the book and which are not. After this though, the approach of the editors I’ve had varies. Some like to mention a problem and then spend some space explaining why they think it’s a problem and then move on. Some like to spin out possible ways to fix a problem. Usually, the first revision letter focuses on big issues of narrative or character. I say first because, again, you will most likely go through several revisions after the acceptance.
This sounds like it might be hard and I know some writers struggle with these revision letters, but provided you have a good editor (most are, I think, and all of mine have been) these letters are another chance at the manuscript. And who doesn’t want another chance to make the manuscript better? Really. Later, when the book goes out into the world and is reviewed and read by readers, you’ll be grateful for every single improvement made by every single revision. It’s hard to write a book. A good editor can really improve a novel and a writer should be grateful for all the help he or she can get.
So, after the thrill of acceptance, the first big step is going back to the manuscript and trying to make it better by going through the revision letter carefully. I try to be open to every possible change, but I know pretty quickly that some suggestions don’t work with my vision of the book. Others I think are definitely good points I need to work on. A lot I have to think over and work through because I’m just not sure about. So, my advice is not to blindly accept or reject any advice in an editorial letter but to read it through several times, make some notes, then get rewriting. Some suggestions I can’t decide about until I’m in the process of revision and see how certain changes affect the rest of the novel. It’s all part of the process.