Revision and (re)Vision

When you get a revision request from an editor, do you limit your (re)vision to only what the editor mentioned? Or, do you allow yourself to open up that (re)vision to a broader idea, cognizant of the fact that an editor sometimes only mentions things as a way to get you to re-think your work?

The idea that revision is really a new vision of a piece of work seems to be a foreign concept for many new writers. This was brought to my attention once again as I looked at a writer’s response to a suggestion that he might consider a second round of revision on a submitted poem. He said that there were requests in this second round that weren’t mentioned the first time through and, so, he decided he was done.

Which, of course, is a valid choice. But, what struck me was his choice to limit his idea of revision to only the suggestions the editors mentioned rather than taking those suggestions and going forward, beyond.

This is tricky territory because, sometimes, editors really do mean for a writer to stick with exactly the area the editors have pointed out. And that is when editors need to be very clear about their suggestions and whether that means they will take a piece if “A” is revised to “B” or whether they really want the author to plunge deeper into the work to see what they can tease out.

If you are working with an editor or a team of editors who welcome your questions, take advantage of that and ask them what they mean if it’s not clear. There are not a lot of publications with staff who will give a writer that sort of feedback, so don’t ignore your opportunities. Consider editors’ suggestions, when they are given in the spirit of genuine, honest, and educated criticism, as a gift. Editors see a lot more of other people’s raw work than you do.

Your friends, after all, probably aren’t going to be that careful with your work because it’s not their job. Their job is to love you no matter what.

Now go shake up something and see what happens.

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