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It’s what every writer hopes for: A literary agent has offered representation for your book, or an editor has accepted your short story or poetry for publication. Start the happy dancing! But wait—what if the agent or editor wants changes to your work? At Writer’s Relief, we know a good editor or literary agent will approach your work with sensitivity and care, and the suggested edits would only make your work better. However, what if the changes are more extensive: You’re asked to delete entire passages, to change POVs, or to rewrite your ending? Here’s what to do if an agent or editor wants changes to your writing.
What to Do When an Agent or Editor Requests Changes to Your Writing
Have a conversation. You may automatically want to defend your work and your choices. But before you do, have a conversation with the agent or editor to clarify why the revision is being requested. Keeping an open mind and talking about alternative ideas might lead you to agree on a revision you’re both happy with.
Be open-minded. Instead of being at odds with your agent or editor when it comes to revisions, swap thoughts and ideas about the proposed edits. Even if you disagree with the requested revisions, give the suggestions a try. Until you roll up your sleeves and get your fingers on the keyboard, your reaction is probably going to be driven by your emotions—not your logical, thinking, writerly brain. The worst thing that will happen? You’ll revert back to your original draft.
And the best thing that could happen? Exploring the unwelcome edit might lead you to an agreement or compromise with the agent or editor.
Remember, you are all working toward the same goal: getting your writing published! Whether it’s a novel, short prose, or a poem, you and your editor want the writing to be the best it can possibly be. Approach any discussions (or even negotiations) with this fact in mind. A revision doesn’t mean your writing is bad; it means that the agent or editor understands what readers are looking for and is trying to help you reach your audience.
Agree to disagree. If you’ve given the suggestions a genuine try and still don’t agree with the edits, you should do what feels right and say “no thank you.” Your literary agent or editor will appreciate that you took the suggestions seriously and attempted to incorporate them into your writing, even if you ultimately rejected the change. Your open-mindedness to the revisions and genuine attempt to incorporate them into your writing will speak volumes about your confidence and professionalism as a writer.
Sometimes a few small edits don’t make a major change to the overall story, poem, or book, and you can gladly agree to the revisions. And even larger edits may be acceptable once you understand the thinking behind the change and how it benefits your manuscript. But if, after making an honest attempt, you aren’t comfortable with the suggested edits, it’s important to be true to yourself and your writing.
Question: Have you ever been asked to revise your work? What did you do?