I've recently had a few writer friends about to publish their first books mention how nerve wracking it is waiting for the revision letter to come from their editor. I can totally sympathize because when I was waiting for the revision letter for ILLEGALLY BLONDE I truly did not know what to expect. Even when you talk to your editor beforehand and they assure you that it won't be horrible, that they are there to help you work through it, you can't help but picture a massive evisceration of your novel coming at you at some point and you being left to put the torn apart body back in some manner that won't make your book look like Frankenstein's monster. Well, even though I'm by no means an old hand at this publishing game, I am now waiting for the revision letter for my second book, THE BREAK, to come sometime in the next few weeks and this time around, let me tell you, I am totally NOT dreading it. In fact, I am completely, one hundred percent, looking forward to it. Am I nuts? I don't think so. Let me explain.
A revision letter is actually a wonderful, exciting thing to receive. It is a gift. If it's from an editor you trust and with whom you enjoy communicating it is - or should be - a fascinating dialogue about your book. If you love your book, why wouldn't you love talking about it? Dissecting it? Looking at it from different angles. Yes, tearing it apart might be hard but a good editor (and I've been very lucky to have worked with a very good editor) will give you a blueprint. Sort of like an architect and a builder working together to make this book the most beautiful house it can be. Now note that I said 'working together'. This is key. In no way could I have worked with a dictatorial process. "You must remove this scene. You will change this character from a male to a female. You must make the ending a happy one, not the tear-jerker you have now." No. Working together means that the suggestions and questions an editor has of your story should be just that: suggestions and questions. And, for the writer's part, you should be open to all suggestions and willing to answer/consider all questions. As for whether you accept or reject suggestions, a writer has the ultimate responsibility to their story. I'm not advocating a writer dutifully say: "Oh, yes. You think that scene would be much better if those secondary characters were gone? Okay. I'll do that." Don't accept changes without thinking about them and what they would do to your story.
The writer should always have a reason to accept or reject a suggestion. Do you believe, as your editor has suggested, that the secondary characters clutter the scene with too much dialogue, taking away from the emotional impact of the heroine confronting the hero? Or do you believe that having the secondary characters there, watching the train wreck of a relationship crumbling in front of them, will make the scene more impactful for the reader? Whatever you decide, keeping them or letting them go, give the reasons for your decision to your editor. It may be enough for the editor to say: "Okay. Glad we agree." or "Hmm. I didn't think of that. Maybe you're right." or "Are you sure? Because if you do keep them then…" - and the dialogue will continue.
The other reason I'm anticipating getting that revision letter is simply because I LOVE revision. I hate first drafts and I'm in the middle of one now that is beating my butt so maybe that's why I'm looking forward to working on revisions. The chance to work on a novel that is 'finished' so to speak but that will benefit from some spit and polish is exciting to me. It makes me feel like there's progress being made. It's the decorating phase of the house build. All the boring wiring, plumbing, drywall, etc has been done. Now it's time to paint, select the right furniture, place it just so to make that house really show off well (You can tell I'm in the middle of a house reno right now, can't you?:))
So, to all my friends waiting for those letters or who have just received them: embrace this part of the process, don't dread it. It means your book is getting so close to being published!! What's to dread about that?