5 Tips for Revising on Spec

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You’ve just gotten an exciting email or letter–an editor has suggested revisions to your story.

Revising on Spec

Unless the editor is backing up this suggested revision with a contract, you will be revising “on spec,” on the speculation that this suggested change will bring the story up to a level where a contract can be offered.

This is tricky business. Should you spend the time doing the revisions, when there is no guarantee of a sale?

First, probably 90% of manuscripts revised on spec are rejected. However, you have to get HERE to get THERE. Unless you revise, it is guaranteed, you won’t get a contract. So, how to proceed?

  • Take the time to re-read the suggested changes. Do you agree with the changes? Or will this change take the story off in a direction you didn’t want? Perhaps, the changes are unexpected, but interesting and perhaps, exciting? Evaluate carefully if the editor understood your intent and direction; if they are suggesting a different intent and direction, is it one that you can live with?
  • Think about the heart of the suggested changes. If you merely do the “letter of the revision,” you’ll be in the 90% that gets rejected. Guaranteed. You must think hard about the heart of the editorial suggestions. The editor may or may not understand HOW TO FIX a problem, but they may have hit upon the very thing that needs work. YOU must decide how to fix it and the editor won’t care if you did it his/her way; they only care that you did it. (Really. Trust me on this one. If this has happened to you, please add a comment with details of your experience!) What is the editor really saying about your story?
  • Re-read the story before and after the revisions. What has changed? Do you like the changes? Did the suggested changes bring up other problems? If so, resolve that, too. Don’t send back a mss until YOU are satisfied with it.
  • Take your time. Sigh. This is the hardest thing to do, isn’t it? You’re excited and you want to get this done, sent back and sign that contract. But it’s essential to slow yourself down as much as you can. Make yourself wait until the critique group meets in two weeks and take it to that. Anything. You have only one shot to get it right. Take time–however you have to trick youself–to do it right.
  • Send it and forget it. When you finally send it off, then forget it. Move on to the next project, or pick up the project you put off to do these revisions. 90% of these revisions on spec are ultimately rejected; but, by the way, the editor has just made your story better and it may hit the NEXT editor as simply fantastic. And, by the way, 10% ARE accepted after revisions. Either way, 90% or 10%, your job is to do your job, your way, which means–get back to work.

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