Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Revisions for the Writer with Lynne Marshall

I'm so excited to have Harlequin and Wild Rose author, Lynne Marshall on the blog today. Welcome Lynne!

As a writer or an aspiring author, at one time or another, it is inevitable you WILL be asked to revise your book.  The author letter, also known as the revision letter from your publisher can be as simple as a few tweaks to the story, or a six page, single-spaced breakdown of each and every aspect of your story that needs reworking.  A revision letter can knock the wind out of the author, and nothing less than determination is required to successfully interpret and implement a particularly troublesome revision letter.  A writer must have faith in their ability to figure out what the editor is asking, agree or disagree with it, fix what can be fixed, and discuss differences-in-vision for the story with a level head and a clear plan.

Let’s discuss what Revising is from a practical standpoint with my medical slant.

Think of revisions as major surgery on a patient (your manuscript) with a good prognosis.  You must be bold and daring with your approach to cutting and changing scenes, and yet precise when capturing the important emotional nuances and theme of the story. 


Examples of revision requests:
  • Revisions mean to delete the prologue and the seduction scene because the editor doesn’t feel they make the hero sympathetic enough. 
  • Revisions mean to change up a sequence of events and/or move a scene around or delete it if it causes a lag in story tension or pace.
  • Revisions mean to change a pivotal scene and have the heroine walk away instead of the hero (even though that’s how you always imagined that scene from the day you hatched the story) to give the book more emotional oomph.

Especially For Romance Writers:
  • Revisions mean to go through the entire manuscript and add emotion, tension, and passion!
  • Revisions mean to somehow find a way to add a pregnancy, a baby, or a marriage of convenience to your story if the buying editor thinks you should.

Above all, revisions mean to be FLEXIBLE and do whatever it takes to make your story a combination of your vision and what your agent or editor is looking for.

Things to keep in mind: 
  • Editors are paid professionals who know how to make our books better.
  • We may think of ourselves as “Artistes,” but a quick reality check in today’s market tells us we are writers for hire.
  • Stop and think very carefully about what is being asked of you as the author, does it help or hinder your story?  Will the changes increase conflict and put more tension on the page?

Let’s face it, the revision portion of your manuscript request can make or break the publishing deal.  Our attitude plus skill at delivering what the editor or agent requests are the key.  Handle revisions with care.

I’d like to ask you to think outside the box on your current work in progress or that manuscript you’ve just submitted to an agent or editor.  Imagine and choose an outrageous editor or agent request for your plot (a surprise pregnancy, a secret child, a marriage of convenience, a change in profession for either of your characters, deleting a secondary character – you catch my drift).  How would you add it to the story if an editor said they loved the book, but asked you to make the change in order to publish it?


Lynne Marshall writes contemporary and Medical Romance for Harlequin and The Wild Rose Press.  The first book in the Grady family trilogy, Courting His Favorite Nurse, is a March 2012 Harlequin Special Edition.  Also coming in March in e-book only is, An Indiscretion, a contemporary romance with strong medical elements, from The Wild Rose Press.

You can connect with Lynne Marshall on the Web:
Website                Facebook             RomanceWiki         Author Page

COURTING HIS FAVORITE NURSE Harlequin Special Edition, March 2012 #2178, US
Anne Grady knew better than anyone that love was complicated. When she’d left her hometown, she thought she was leaving her past heartbreak behind for good, as well. But practically the moment she returned to care for her injured parents, she stumbled headlong into their confidant—her first love, Jack Lightfoot.

Jack had been unable to deny his feelings for Annie when he was a teenager dating her best friend, and he certainly couldn’t muffle the spark twisting between them now—even if memories of the past kept threatening to push them apart. This time Jack wasn’t going to let history repeat itself—he was going to show Annie that the two of them were meant to be much more than best friends!
Buy Links:
Harlequin      Amazon      Amazon UK      B&N        Book Depository

And the next for Lynne is:
A doctor... A nurse... An indiscretion...
Paul Valverde is stretched to the limit, caring for an elderly relative while running a business and maintaining a full-time medical practice at St. Stephen's Hospital--with no time for a relationship.
RN Carrington Hanover leaves her money-hungry fiance at the altar and moves on to a new job at St. Stephen's Hospital in Los Angeles. The next man in her life must love her, not her money.
All work and no play has made Paul an unfulfilled man, and the resurrected redheaded crush from his youth is driving him to distraction. Can their complicated past become untangled by their newfound attraction--or will their love be doomed by mistrust and long-held resentment?

Thanks so much for joining us today, Lynne! Happy revising everyone.



Lynne Marshall said...

Lacey - I'm so happy to be your guest blogger today. I know first hand how daunting revisions can be, and I hope I've added a new way to look at revisions.

I always say - read the revision letter, let is rest for 24 hours, let your brain begin subconsciously fixing the problems, then approach the process with an open mind!

Dee J. said...


You are so right in comparing revisions to major surgery! I'd never thought of it like that before, but it's so true! I had to take out my favorite line from my last book (among other revisions) and it HURT so BAD!!! It was like surgery without any painkiller! Granted, I know there are worse things to lose in a book, but this line-ectomy killed me. Thanks for a great post and congrats on the new releases!

Christine Ashworth said...

OOH yeah - great timing with the post, Lynne. I'm about to open up my revisions from my editor, lol! I think, since my book is a paranormal, I could do everything you asked - pregnancy/secret baby, change in professions, losing a character (I put a LOT of characters in my novels, lol). And since I haven't even looked at the manuscript for six weeks, I might even enjoy the challenge!

Terrific post - can't wait to dive into the new books!

Georgie Lee said...

Great post. Revisions are challenging but most of the time I agree with what I am being asked to revise. Being so close to the story, I can't always see what needs changing. It is great to have the input and the chance to make a story better.

Vonnie Davis said...

My first book was contracted before the edits came. The editor suggested I change the pov in the last scene. I had it in the hero's pov. I'd visualized that scene the whole way through the poject and hated the thought of changing it. So I added a epilogue in the heroine's pov as an example of a compromize. Luckily, she loved it.

So imagine my surprise when the editor for my second project sent me a list of corrections/edits before she'd contract me. Being new to this I had no clue. So I did as she asked, figuring this was all the edits I'd need to do. **slaps forehead** One clueless writer here. THEN the real edits began. Ouch.

Lynne Marshall said...

Dee J - I'm so sorry about your "line-ectomy" LOL - no! nothing to laugh at. I think Stephen King said we needed to be able to kill ourbabies in revisions.

It hoits! It hoits!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Christine! Even though your book is a paranormal, I hope you DON'T have to do everything I posed. I hope you do enjoy the challenge of your awaiting revisions.

May the surgery be minor with few stitches and only a short stint in rehab!

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Georgie!
I agree that it is always good to make the story better, and we are generally too close to the characters/plot to see the gaping holes. Editors have a knack for seeing what needs to be fixed, and usually have solid suggestions for how to fix it.

I always feel my stories are better after the edits, though sometimes I have a few discussions with my editor and come to a compromise for a scene here or there.

Lynne Marshall said...

Oh, Vonnie! I feel your pain because I've had the same thing happen. My jaw always drops when i hear (very rarely) about a mss accepted without ANY revisions.

My only question is - why can't it be me? This has yet to happen...15 books later.

Hugs and I know you'll find the perfect way to fix or compromise the areas in question. I'm sure the book will be as fantastic as Storm's Interlude when your edits are over.

Charlene Sands said...

Excellent info on revisions! I have had my share of killer revisions and had very light ones too. Guess which ones I prefer? But honestly, if they make the book better, I'm willing to do the hard work.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Charlene!
It is good to know that even someone with over 30 books published still have to deal with revisions. I hope that gives hope to any aspiring authors reading the blog and comments!

Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

Robin Bielman said...

This was a great post, Lynne! As usual, you give wonderful advice. Thank you! I'm especially going to remember this: DON’T BE AFRAID TO TAKE A HACKSAW AND DRAW BLOOD TO FIX YOUR BOOK. :D

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Robin!
Sometimes hacksaws are necessary in edits. It hurst like heck, but after the surgical haze wears off, the book is usually much better.

I'm sure there are stories out there where the book got over hacked in edits, though, so here's another little tip - make a copy of the original book BEFORE you begin editing, just in case the original turns out to wind up being the better version. !

Desere said...

I adored the post ! Thanks Lynne your books are stunning !


Cathy Shouse said...

Love your books, lynne! I'm taking a course called "can this manuscript be saved?" right now! Would you mind sharing the mechanics of revision? Do you save all your versions? Print and scrawl on it or do it all in Word software? I find working on a complete manuscript awkward from a practical standpoint. What's your method if you add a baby? Thats a complete rewrite isnt it?

Wendy S. Marcus said...

Hi Lynne!
Great post - as always! I follow the difficult rule: No matter how much you love a scene, if it doesn't serve a specific purpose and doesn't move the story along, get rid of it! (It's not easy!) But, when revising, I don't delete anything. I save it in a deleted scenes file in case I can use it someplace else in my manuscript.

Congrats on your new releases! Can't wait to read them!

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Desere!
Thank you so much for reading the blog and commenting. I am thrilled to know you enjoy my books.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Cathy!
I'm so glad to hear you're taking an online course on revising. The focus of this blog is on dealing with the revision letter, so let me explain my "method" for dealing with that. I read the letter (break out in a sweat and freak out) then put the letter down for 24 hours. I don't consciously think about it, but let my subconscious begin tossing ideas around for how to approach the requests. The next day I reread the letter and highlight the main points of revision, I left those out of the letter and make a list of what needs to change, then literally go down the list and work through my mss adding, subtracting, rearranging, whatever it takes to incorporate the change.

If I were asked to add a baby - yes, I've received that revision request - "Can you make her pregnant" I find the key scenes that will have to change and first work out the mechanics, then bring in the emotional impact necessary. I'm wracking my brain to remember which book I had to do that in. It Temporary Doctor, Surprise Father, and it only involved changing the end of the book, so "whew!" on that.
I hope this helped a little?

Lynne Marshall said...

Sensible Author minds think alike. I definitely keep a Deleted Scenes file. I have also been known to use a deleted scene from one book in a future book, if it fits. If nothing else, we can post a deleted scene at our website just for fun, right?
I had to delete a scene that I thought was significant, but the editor didn't, from Courting His Favorite Nurse, and now I don't even miss it! I was also asked to add the very last scene in the book, and now it is one of my favorite scenes! (though it hadn't occured to me to do it because I wanted to end on a big dramatic scene. If I'd done that, I would have left the reader wondering a couple of things.
Boy, I'm chatty this morning!

Felice Fox said...

Great post, Lynne. Artists have to be practical business people at some point if they want to sell their product. Good luck with your new book! Looking forward to checking it out. :-)


Ilona Fridl said...

Hi, Lynne!

Fellow Rose here! I agree with your post. I know my story was good, but after working with my editor, it was so much better. Editors know how to polish to make it shine.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Felice - you are so right. If we want to sell in the traditional manner - publishing house - we have to write what they are looking for.

I do love the freedom of acceptance of those hard to categorize stories by e-publishers. (found a home for three of my stories there) Also, the fantastic freedom of taking a chance and self-pubbing, which I may venture into some time this year. Only time will tell if our story is a hit or a miss and whether or not a good guiding editor might have been needed. Though I definitely will hire an editor before I self publish.

Lynne Marshall said...

Ilona! Great to see another Wild Rose here. :)
You are so right. Our books may be good, but editors make them better! We are too close to our projects to be able to catch things that may slow down the pace, or distract the reader from the heart of the story. The last thing we ever want to do is throw a reader out of our stories, and editors save the day on that count!

Robena Grant said...

Fabulous post, you gave some excellent advice, which I hope to use some day. If I got a revisions letter from a publisher I'd be so excited I'd want to sit down right away and change everything to suit. : ) I can only hope I get the chance soon.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Robena!
I'm with you, I'm always amazed when I hear writers toss a revision letter for two reasons:
1. they thought it was a rejection letter.
2. They weren't going to consider changing one thing about their precious baby.
Personally - after I freak out - I love the challenge of the revision letter, and thank heavens I've had very good success in hitting the right note in revisions and getting those books sold.

Lastly - I also hope you get a revision letter from the publisher of your choice real soon! :)

Victoria Russell said...

Excellent advice, Lynne! I've been afraid to edit my manuscript BEFORE even submitting it, and to know that more edits are inevitable, while scary, is a good realization to come to even BEFORE the submission process.



Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Victoria!
Yes, you're right - to be forewarned is to be prepared, right?

The revision letter is an honor because it means an editor or agent has read your story and likes what they see, but they also see where it needs to be fixed. When an editor sends a revision letter, they've already invested lots of time reading and thinking about your story. They don't bother to send revision letters unless they are truly interested.
Our job is to hit the right tone with the changes so the editor will buy that book!!!!! It's tricky, but definitely doable.

Maria Powers said...

I haven't had an editor ask for revisions yet, but I've felt the same way when my critique partners do it. My first reaction is always "What? How can you not see it?" and then a day later (sometimes even faster) "Hmm, she may be on to something." And then the revisions and then the "Wow, this is so much better!" Great post and totally timely as I have to either delete a scene or move it right now.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Maria!
Thanks for stopping by. I know that feeling when your critique partners come from a totally different angle than you'd imagined. It shakes things up, and, as you said, after letting it rest a day or so, their suggestions may not seem quite as outrageous. Being in a critique group with more than one person commenting on your work is great preparation for the inevitable editor revisions.

Best of luck with either moving or deleting that scene!

Roz Lee said...

Great post, Lynne! I've been fortunate in that I've not had to make too many drastic changes, but my editor asked me to cut the entire first chapter of my latest release! Yipes! Panic time! After I calmed down, got past the denial (this is the best part of the book - yeah, right) I got out the hacksaw and cut the chapter. She was right. It had to go! LOL We can always count on you to get us thinking.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Roz!
I feel your pain! I'm glad the deleted chapter didn't spoil your book. I've found, when I've been asked to say begin at chapter three! (made me physically ill) that I somehow managed to weave in the prior info later in the book, and it came naturally and worked out great.
We'll never know what we can do until we're challenged, right?

tamylee said...

Thank you Lynne! Revisions can be daunting (make you defensive for sure.) But, as with most things in life, feedback is so important. Your advice to let it rest for 24 hours is so wise. Our subconscious does start the rework and our keeping an open mind can make all the difference in our writing.

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Tamylee!
Yes, we think alike. I'm amazed how my subconscious has solved so many things in my revisions, long before I was ready to deal with them.

Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.

Maria Mohan said...

For me, revising is the difficult part, the real work. Otherwise, writing is recreation!

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