Revision Requests

The road to publication is long, arduous, and wrought with gray areas. Who’s advice do you follow? How many changes can you make without losing your story and voice? Imagine receiving personal advice from an editor. It’s exciting, and nerve-wracking! It means your novel has gained enough interest to warrant their attention, but it’s in no way a guarantee of publication. Today Anne Mateer shares her revise and resub story. I hope you’ll find it informative and encouraging.

Making Requested Revisions BEFORE a Contract is Offered by Anne Mateer

I sat across the table from a Bethany House editor, the two of us alone in a room while most other conference attendees sat listening to the keynote speaker. A month earlier, I’d sent the full manuscript of my novel, which she requested after seeing the beginning of it in the finals of the Genesis contest. My heart pounded and my hands twisted in my lap. A simple rejection would be done via email, not face to face—right?

We chatted. She set me at ease, telling me how much she enjoyed the story, the characters. My heart thumped harder. Was this the moment I’d been waiting for my whole life long?

She slid a stapled set of papers toward me. She and a couple of other editors had read through the book. And while they liked many things about it, they didn’t feel it quite ready yet. My heart sank into my stomach, then seemed to slither onto the floor in a puddle. A rejection after all.

And yet—not.

The pages she handed me contained a run down of things they like about the book and things they felt weren’t quite up to par. Could I revise it and resubmit? She asked. Of course there are no guarantees, she continued.

I worked to keep my excitement in check, reminding myself this did not mean if I did the work I’d receive a contract. But I quickly realized the amazing opportunity that had been handed to me. Some of the best editors of historical fiction in the business had given me feedback on my book. Not just on a few opening pages, on the entire story! Whether or not my revision resulted in a contract, they were essentially offering me the chance of a lifetime—an advanced class in publishable historical fiction.

Holding tightly to this idea, I plunged into my manuscript, working on the issues they’d identified. More than anything, I wanted to grow as a writer, not to squander this opportunity to learn. With that as my goal, I finished the revision and resubmitted. No, it didn’t result in a contract. At least not at that moment. There were more tweaks before they felt it ready to go to pub board. At times I despaired that it would ever meet their mark, but I persevered, determined to strengthen my writing muscles. After a grueling six months of work, the editor called and offered a two book contract.

I could have opted out of the initial opportunity. But if I had insisted that I wouldn’t do the revisions without a contract (or at least the promise of one), I would have missed out on some amazing things—like understanding how to work with an editor, learning how to shore up problem areas of the story and honing my craft for its own sake. And while the contract itself was an awesome reward at the end of the process, the experience of revision and resubmission beforehand was a priceless gift from the Lord that I will always treasure.

Anne Mateer worked over ten years on the craft of fiction before seeing her debut novel, Wings of a Dream, in publication. Her second book, At Every Turn, releases in September of 2012. Anne and her husband of 25 years live in Texas. They are the parents of three young adults. Visit her online at AnneMateer.com, follow her on Twitter, or connect via Facebook.

Wings of a Dream:

Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family’s farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he’s the man she’s meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother’s sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur’s training camp as God’s approval of her plans.

But the Spanish flu epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt’s death, Arthur’s indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she’s always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.

Buy it now.

We’d love to hear from you. Do you have any revision stories you can share? Any feedback from editors, agents, or crit partners you found especially helpful? What about when you receive conflicting advice? How do you sift through all the suggestions competing for your attention?

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About Jennifer Slattery

Novelist and speaker Jennifer Slattery, also writing as Jen Pheobus, uses humor, grace, and truth to inspire God's children to live abundant, Christ-centered lives. She does content editing for Firefly, a southern fiction imprint with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and is a regular contributor to Crosswalk.com; Internet Cafe Devotions; Faith, Friends and Chocolate; and manages the social media for Takin’ it to the Streets, a ministry that serves Omaha’s working poor and homeless. She’s placed in numerous writing contests and her work has appeared in numerous compilations, magazines, and e-zines.

Posted on March 15, 2012, in Author spotlight, fiction, revisions, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing Anne’s story, Jennifer. I admire her willingness to take direction and do the work and am thankful she ended up with a contract after her revisions.

    My agent, Rachelle Gardner, requested my full after having read a portion of my story in a contest in which she served as a final round judge. When she made The Agent Call, she told me the story would need some work. I soared in the stratosphere for six weeks before being brought back to earth with a thud when Rachelle gave me her Revision Notes. I’d unknowingly reduced the tension of the story at one-quarter mark, and the fix was deleting the remaining three-quarters and rewriting it. I’d already rewritten this story twice on my own, so I knew how much work I faced, but I trusted Rachelle and dove into that rewrite, seeing it as an opportunity to grow as a writer. A year later she sold the story. A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California will be released in July.

    I think of a revise and resubmit request as a wonderful opportunity. Even if the revisions don’t result in a contract, a writer can learn a great deal during the process. I’ve even heard stories where a revised book wasn’t picked up after such a request, but a subsequent one was, in part because the publishing pro knew the writer was willing to take direction and make changes.

  2. Helpful story…thanks!

  3. Thanks for letting me tell my story today, Jennifer.

  4. Anne has some great input doesn’t she? She’s following her own advice too! Her latest book, “Playing by Heart” is about to release and she’s celebrating with a promotional giveaway. Be sure to take a look at the contest sponsored by Bethany House and enter for your chance to win some lovely prizes focused on the book’s content. Enjoy! https://promosimple.com/ps/58bc

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