Revision Letters Part 2: Symptoms

You have received a revision letter from an editor or agent, or any kind of detailed critique, and you’re falling apart at the seams.  How can you fix the situation so you can do what needs to be done?

First, you need to: Take your ego out of the whole situation.  See Revision Letters Part 1: Ego

After you’ve done this, the second part of dealing with revison letters and critique is to:

View every critique as a list of symptoms not a list of factual problems or issues.


Because most times, a “problem” exists in the manuscript long before it grows big enough for the reader to notice.

So an editor can say “fix X”… but the real problem isn’t “X”… because “X” just happened to be the first place the issue got big enough for the editor to notice that something was wrong.  The real problem is “Y” that happened three chapters before, and in the intervening chapters “Y” _grew_ into “X”.

So, instead of taking the editor/agent at their literal word and fixing “X”, which doesn’t fix the real problem, because the real problem wasn’t “X” it was “Y”…

View “fix X” as a symptom, apply some brain cells to the situation and say to yourself:

“The editor says ‘fix X’, but is ‘X’ a real issue in itself, or a symptom of something else?”

Sometimes “X” is the real issue, but a lot more of time it’s only a symptom of something else.