I've often wondered what was included in Revision Notes that would bring about such a strong reaction. Sure, I had an idea, having read blog posts for over two years, but those accounts didn't satisfy my curiosity.
In recent weeks, I've been able to view two sets of Notes, one belonging to a brave novelist friend who shared hers with me, and the other the Notes my agent, Rachelle Gardner, sent me a week ago. Because some of you may be as curious as I was, I'm going to give you a glimpse of mine.
Before I share what was in my Notes, I want to make it clear that Rachelle called and spent an hour going over everything that was in them before I ever saw them in print. Had she not done so, I might have been devastated to read her comments and suggestions. However, Rachelle isn't known as one of the best agents out there for nothing. Her fellow agent Chip MacGregor says she's "nice," and she is. She took the time to share her thoughts with a wonderful balance of compassion and directness. I had to hear truth if my story is to improve, but she delivered it in a way that honored me and my story, and I'm extremely grateful for that.
And now, for the promised peek at my Revision Notes . . .
My Editorial Memo, which is what Rachelle called my Revision Notes, consists of four single-spaced pages. Rachelle worked for many years as an editor and edited for some big name authors such as Brandilyn Collins, Mary DeMuth, and Lisa Samson. The Memo I received is much like that my friend received from an editor at a major publishing house, both in appearance and content.
Rachelle broke the content into the following sections:
- Opening - Rachelle began with almost a full page of compliments. She listed what she liked about the story, what she sees as its strengths, and what areas of craft she thinks I handled well. (To be honest, this was my favorite part of the Memo. *grin*)
- Transition - After having noted the strengths in my story and my writing, Rachelle took two paragraphs to explain the motivation behind her upcoming suggestions. She also reassured me that she knows this is my story and has no intention of meddling with my Voice, honors me as a writer, and is open to discussing my concerns or areas in which I may disagree with her.
- Concerns - Rachelle has two, each of which filled an entire page. While that may sound overwhelming, her explanation enabled me to understand what she meant and why the two weaknesses she spotted are concerns. She clearly stated each, gave sound reasons for them, and made suggestions as to how I can address them. (For the record, I agree with her and am in the process of plotting my fix.)
- Characters - My two main characters, which I like to call the hero and heroine, each received two paragraphs of comments. Rachelle shared what she liked about them and enlightened me as to what she sees as shortcomings.
- Pacing - Rachelle suggested I reread my story and note areas of repetition. She pointed out several chapters where the pacing is slow.
- Length - I submitted a 111K story, so I wasn't surprised to hear it has to be tightened and cut to 100K.
- Conclusion - Rachelle offered to assist me through the process.
- Expertise - It was easy to see that Rachelle knows her stuff. Her experience and grasp of the editing process are evident. Although it wasn't easy to hear that my story has some major weaknesses, I realize she's right and am grateful to her for pointing them out.
- Personality - Rachelle's clients speak very highly of her. I see why. Receiving one's first Editorial Memo can be overwhelming. She herself used the term "shell-shocked" to describe the reaction many experience. My experience was far more positive than I had expected. Rachelle treats her clients, even newbie writers like me whose story isn't yet all I believed it to be, with respect and consideration. Not that she sugarcoats things. (For example, my letter includes such phrases as "The problem is that it's totally unbelievable . . ." and "None of this rings true." Taken out of context, those statements may sound harsh. I don't feel that way. She says what needs to be said, but she couches it very well.
- Support - Throughout the letter, I picked up on the fact that Rachelle believes in my story, despite it's rather glaring weaknesses. (That description is mine, not hers, btw.) She assured me it can be fixed and gave me great suggestions on how to go about it. I also feel that she believes in my ability as a writer, which she conveyed in many ways throughout the Memo.
I'll be exploring the various aspects of the letter in more depth as I go through the revision process and will share my thoughts in future blog posts.
.If you're a writer and have received Revision Notes or an Editorial Memo, what was your initial reaction? Did you agree of disagree with the agent or editor's suggestions?
Questions for you
Questions for you
If you're a writer who has yet to receive Notes or a Memo, were you surprised by what was in mine?