We spend a lot of time and effort on our books, so sometimes the thought of changing a single word can be disheartening. But revisions are a part of publishing, so at some point there will be a lot of fingers in the same literary pie. This can be intimidating, and might even make you feel like you're losing control of your own work.
When an agent or editor asks you for revisions, do you have to sacrifice your vision just to get published?
The answer is a big, huge NO WAY.
Obviously I can only speak from my own experience here, but agents and editors aren't out to change your story and gut all the stuff about it that you love. Their job is to help push you to create the best story you can. The better the book, the better the chance it'll be successful and make everyone money. And since publishing is a business, money matters.
And YOU are always in control of your work. You can say no to those changes. Yes, it's true that you could wind up in a situation where an agent or editor wants changes you feel would ruin the book, and saying no means no sale. Only you can decide how you want to handle that. You might find that you can come up with a way to satisfy both sides and do something with the book you never expected. Or you might say sorry, no go, and walk away. But it's YOUR choice.
I've found the revision process to be quite enjoyable. Both my agent and my editor have seen things in the book that they thought could be developed into something better. Both made suggestions, but they never gave instructions like "Do this here and that there." They made macro suggestions on how to tie things I already had together, or deepen a thematic aspect, or raise the stakes. Then they let me figure out how to do that. My story never changed, just how I told that story did. (And that's all plot is, details that illustrate your story)
They were right every time, and what I came up with was way better than what I had first done.
It's no different from being in a critique group, really. If I took the crits from my group and mixed them in with the ones from my agent and editor, and took off the names, you wouldn't be able to tell who wrote what. The suggestions are all right in line with each other. And just like I use the advice I agree with in my crit group, I use the advice I agree with from my agent and editor. When I disagree (and I do from time to time) we talk about it. We find a way to make both sides happy. And I do say no on some things.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, and we usually fall in love with our words. It's natural, because as writers, we love words. But once we decide to become authors, our words become a product, and our book becomes a group effort. We still have control over it, but more people will make suggestions and give advice to push you to be the best you can be.
If publishing is your dream, you have to accept that revisions will be part of the deal. If the thought makes your skin crawl, start working now to find a way to work with it so you won't be miserable living that dream. The only way you can publish and not go through an editing process is to self publish. That way you have total control over every word. (or train yourself to be so perfect nobody wants to change a single word, but that's asking an awful lot of someone, and everyone's idea of perfect varies)
Revisions are not as bad as they seem. Some will be harder than others, but if you remember that it's all about making your book better, and that you're the one who has all the control on how you do that, the process will go much smoother.
What do you worry about regarding revisions? Do you worry at all?
Looking for tips on revising your novel? Check out my book Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, a series of self-guided workshops that help you revise your manuscript into a finished novel. Still working on your idea? Then try my just-released Planning Your Novel Workbook.
A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.
Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, and the upcoming Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).
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