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Sunday, June 11, 2017

How to Complete a Requested Rewrite: Sometimes You Have to Muscle Through

Last Monday I felt pretty good about where I was in terms of meeting deadlines. Then I checked my e-mail. The rewrite request that I’ve been waiting for since April had finally arrived. It is a book for teens. It touches on politics, oil, green energy, Native American history, chemistry and economics. I knew there were going to be things I needed to change.

I quickly popped down to the end of the document. Requested changes are always in comments and I wanted to see how many there were. 123. 8 chapters. 15,000 words. 123 comments. I skimmed them quickly and saw that it is pretty much the same old, same old.

But still, 123? It can be panic inducing as my publisher knew. Her e-mail was so sweet and complimentary that it sparkled. Obviously, a panicked writer is not particularly productive. Here are five tips on how to deal with something like this.

Walk away. That’s right. Once you’ve glanced things over, give yourself a day to calm down. You do not want to tackle this kind of thing when you’re in a panic. Go do something else. Finish reading a book. Crochet. Hike. Whatever. But do not rewrite.

Skim it all. Read over the whole thing as quickly as you can. Don’t start making the changes yet. You want to make sure that there are no sweeping changes that need to be made. By sweeping, I mean things that will affect the entire book. Having to rewrite a chapter is big but not sweeping. Make sweeping changes first.

Take it one chapter at a time. If there are no sweeping changes, pick a chapter. Depending on how you work, you might want to rewrite half of chapter 8 before tackling small changes in chapter 2. Whatever. But focus on one chapter.

Discover how you work. As you work through it all, especially if this is your first requested rewrite, pay attention to what is easy and what is difficult. Once you’ve figured this out, learn how to work with it. I quickly move through the chapter and do all of the easy things (check this work, add to glossary, footnote, etc.) Then I do the bigger jobs, like rewrite half of chapter 8. This doesn’t work for everyone but it works for me.

Remember what the end goal is. When you are looking at 123 changes, it can be easy to get grouchy, especially when the content expert man-splains something to you that actually proves you right. You don’t have to make every change (see man-splaining), but both my editor and publisher want this to be the best possible book as does the content expert. Will the changes move it toward that goal? Then make them.

There’s no doubt about it. Working through a book in a week is tough but it can be done. You just have to keep the end goal in sight. And take breaks. I’m a firm believer in taking breaks.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins June 12th. 


  1. Taking breaks IS crucial. If a writer takes breaks, that helps ensure they don't get burnt out...

  2. Oh no, the content expert man-splained you! I was at a casino the other day and sat down at a blackjack table with all men; as the dealer dealt the cards, he would add up mine to tell me what I had but didn't do it for anyone else. It was obvious he thought all that simple addition would hurt my brain. I used to play blackjack tournaments when I lived in Vegas. The other guys were first time players. LOL

    This is great advice, Sue! I agree that you shouldn't dive right into it right when you get the edits back. You should ruminate a little to see if you agree with all the changes and look at the piece as a whole.

  3. 123! I would have had the same reaction even if you know to expect it. :)

    I totally agree with walk away. I use this strategy for so many things...critique group comments, emails from my day job co-workers, a part I'm stuck on in a novel, etc. It really works--sometimes, I run or do housework. Other times, I get my daughter and we go somewhere. Still, sometimes, I need a glass of wine. :)

    Best of luck with your revisions.

  4. Glad to see that I'm not the only one who needs time to process requested changes. I've let the rewrite sit for two days and will reread my changes tomorrow. Fingers crossed that they are all movement in the right direction!

  5. Mary Horner7:36 PM

    I'm doing that right now, waiting until tomorrow to review some changes to a short story! Great advice!


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