What Makes a Successful Revise & Resubmit

I actually hate R&Rs (Revise and Resubmit). I tend to avoid giving them as much as possible and I usually, often, recommend against my clients doing them.

R&Rs are not a simple fix. They are never something you can successfully do in a weekend. Okay, they rarely are. A successful R&R doesn’t mean a fix, it means a complete rewrite. It means the story you’re revising is going to be different from the one you originally turned in.

In my experience, an R&R often slows the author from moving forward in their career, from learning from the feedback they’re getting and making the changes in the next book. An R&R, all too often, is a lot like a Merry-Go-Round. You’re spinning in a circle, but not really getting anywhere.

Recent Experience

Despite what I said above, I recently gave an author an extensive R&R. There was a lot I liked about the book, including their writing, but the book itself was problematic. I sent about a page or two of revisions, but ultimately I didn’t dig as deep as the book needs, as the author needs to make the R&R successful.

For that book to work, as with may R&Rs the ending will need to be brand new, or virtually new. That’s the last 50% of the book. The motivations of at least two of the characters are going to need to change, and the plot itself needs a secondary boost. Which means, this book will need to be different from the one I read. It will need to make me feel like I’m reading an entirely different book, just featuring a few of the same characters.

Tackling a Revise & Resubmit

I would guess at some point in your career you’ll either receive a request for an R&R or a rejection will spur you to want to do one. That’s fine. I would never discourage you from improving your writing and learning from others.

When you do so though, be prepared to dig deep. Be prepared for the fact that most of the R&Rs we see authors tackle do not end in offers of representation or publication. Most of the time, the vision of the R&R doesn’t fully match the vision the author has. And because of that, the author can’t necessarily accomplish what the agent or editor wants. That’s the biggest problem.

When tackling an R&R know that what you’re really doing is writing a different book. If you have a vision for that new book, go ahead and dig in. If not, you might want to consider the words of the agent or editor and see if you can match them with the book you’re currently working on instead.

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7 comments

  1. I totally agree, as a very very new & unpublished author, surely R&R’s means you’re having to rethink your whole book, there by compromising your original book idea ‍♂️

  2. Thanks so much for this post Jessica, it was really timely for me. I recently received a request for R&R from a publisher and am struggling with it. In my heart, it feels like it would change the flavour of the book and perhaps not be true to my vision of the story. To be honest, I really don’t know what to do. At the end of the day, it’s a lot of work and may not even result in publication. As you say, it feels a bit like I’d be spinning in a never-ending circle.
    Thanks, Joni

  3. Jessica, thank you for being so honest about your feelings on R&Rs. I’ve never heard that perspective before, or the reality of what an R&R means. It’s really opened my eyes.

  4. Hi Jessica,
    I am so thankful I read this article because I was planning on rewriting one of my short stories.
    Your approach to adapting an old story into a new story will provide it with a new beginning.
    So instead of making me feel like I am trying to cure a sick dog, I will bring a healthy one to life.
    Thank you,
    Rose CG

  5. Hi Jessica,
    I am so thankful I read this article because I was planning on rewriting one of my short stories. Your approach to adapting an old story into a new story will provide it with a new beginning.
    So instead of making me feel like I am trying to cure a sick dog, I will bring a healthy one to life.
    Thank you,
    Rose CG

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