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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Monster Rewrite: Conquest on a Deadline

Just over two weeks ago, I got a message from one of my editors. “We need a rewrite. One section didn’t work so add information to chapter 5 or create a new chapter. Whichever works. In addition, there are a handful of other things that need to be done. See the notes throughout the manuscript.”

I downloaded the manuscript and discovered 150 notes on 70 pages. Good grief. How many of these notes involved the possible new chapter? There must be a lot since there were only a handful of additional fixes.

I went through the notes and discovered 20 were compliments or observations with no work involved. Another 20 involved the new content. That meant that 100+ comments involved the "handful" of other things.

How did I get this done in just over a week? First, I list out the various comments by chapter. I’m dyslexic and all of those comments as well as “track changes” make the manuscript almost unreadable. So I list which comments need to be dealt with in each chapter. Chatty comments and repeats don't make it to the list.

In terms of the actual writing, I start with the easy fixes. These are the ones asking for clarification or if I really meant X instead of Y.  As I take care of a comment, I cross it off the list. Next I tackle the ones that require me to go back to a source. I expand on points and give additional examples.

Big problems that might require a new chapter? Those I tackle last. I tried to fix this one with a bit more information in Chapter 5 but that didn’t work. So I pulled a bit out of this chapter, a bit out of that chapter and did the research to write a bit more.

With a new chapter composed of text that had to be moved from one point to another in the manuscript, I then read through all 70 pages. I needed to make sure that I struck the information now in the new chapter from where it has first been located in the manuscript. I had to make sure that transitions still made sense and references to earlier information were still referring to earlier information.

Last but not least, I read through all of the comments one more time. With 150 it is easy to miss something. This is also when I respond to comments that deal with things I didn’t change. Often these are cases where someone’s motivations cannot be determined and I won’t speculate or I made a fix different from what was requested.

Some people may think that they key to working through 150 comments is to tie yourself to the desk. That doesn’t work for me. I need to get up and move. Sometimes I go to yoga. Other times I game with my family. Still other times I take the pruners and cut out honeysuckle. Yes, I do yard work, but all of the invasive honeysuckle (think kudzu with flowers) has been annihilated.

And I also managed to meet my deadline.


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 July 22nd, 2019.


  1. Sue--What you propose makes sense. However, what does not make sense is how you do it at the rate you do it at. You're such a prolific writer. I am constantly amazed at how you manage to fit in yoga and yard work and fun with your family and crocheting and choir and weekend trips and beading... and you still manage to juggle multiple writing projects.

    Again, I bow down to you.

  2. 20 compliments are great! But I'm sure that must've been so overwhelming when you opened it up, and I feel your pain. Margo and I are working on the editing of issue 92, and a couple days ago she sent me a 2000-word article that had roughly 160 track changes, which included 391 revisions, 235 insertions, 135 deletions, 11 formatting, 10 comments, and a back and forth with the author. Add to that my final editing and formatting and you can imagine just how overwhelming that short article looked with all those bubbles, different colors, etc. piled on top of each other. My husband is dyslexic, and I know just how rough that is and cannot imagine sorting through that. We have articles like this every issue, although this is on the heavier side and it's like that when we're working with new writers.

    I like your solution to tackling your comments! Game playing is always fun--yoga and massacring your garden sound like stress relievers. :) I tend to sit down and get it all done, but I'm only working on one measly article. I can't imagine an entire book. Congrats on getting it all done! You rock!

  3. Sioux,
    But you work full time, travel, take care of all those dogs, arrange retreats and more. I'm just a busy introvert.

    An article, I can go through in one sitting. Unless a recommended changed doesn't work for me. Than sometimes I have to go do something and think why it doesn't work and what other way I could fix the problem. Hmm. Maybe I should do a blog post on that?



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