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OK, so now I'm trying to figure out a way to describe the kinds of comments for revision that I find I cannot do. I'm not saying other people couldn't do them, but there are times when certain comments make it obvious that it isn't a revision that's being requested in the normal sense, but a complete revisioning and starting from the beginning. Now, you may be committed enough to your book to do this, but you may just be tired of it. In that case, I would say these sorts of comments are a good clue that it's time to move on to something else.

Examples from my own editorial letters/phone calls:

1. Your main character does not feel fleshed out enough. He/She needs to feel like they have a life outside of the main problem. Or possibly--there needs to be a subplot.

I found this incredibly difficult to do. Actually, impossible. Because I think that a character grows organically on my pages and trying to go back and fix the character by adding in a bit here and there and then trying to make it all coherent is just too difficult. If the character doesn't already have a rich life aside from their problem, I think that I may just not care enough about the character to find it.

2. You bring up conflicts in the book and then never let the character resolve them.

This happened because I could not think of conflicts that would be appropriate and work at the age level of the readers. I'm still working on this one.

3. This book seems too similar to a book you have already sold.

This is death to a book. I think you have to come up with something completely different and start from scratch. Maybe you can come back to a book like this and see how different it is, but I don't think so.

4. The character does not act the age that he/she is supposed to be in the book.

This may seem a simple fix. Just change the age, right? But it never is. The format of a book, the other conflicts, the other characters, all circle around the main character's age. If you change that, you change everything.

5. Your character is just too evil for me to care what happens to them.

What can you do about that? It's not that your writing is bad. It's just that the character is turning people off. But you can't tell that same story with a different character, not if it really is suited especially to your evil character. You can try to sell it to a different editor, but you'll never convince this one to look at a revision.

6. The action needs to start sooner.

You'd think this would be simple to do. Just cut out the first twenty pages and then you're there. But the only time I've actually been able to change the opening of a book has been when I've gone even further back in time. Jumping in (in media res, as they say) is very tricky and the farther forward you put the story, the harder it is to fill in the backstory. I've tried to do this fix twice and both times the editors ended up saying they liked the first version better, but then didn't want to work on it anymore with me. I think there may be something else that is really the problem, but I'm still not sure what it is.

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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2011 all rights reserved.
Last revised August 10, 2011.