Revisions by the Numbers

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Dec 09 2015

This year I’ve taken on a few new clients who I worked extensively with on revisions. The manuscripts were great to start, which is why I offered representation, but I wanted to make sure that we were submitting something that was excellent, and edit out any potential rejections.

While doing revisions I’ve been (sort of) tracking the time it takes me to go through a book. I figure that if authors can set a daily word count, we can provide you with an idea of a daily revision count.

When I sit down to revise a manuscript I try to do it during a time when most of my other tasks are done, which usually means I start on a Tuesday or Wednesday at the earliest (Monday comes with a long to-do list). I also look at the big picture, which means it’s not going to get done in one day or, sometimes even one week. This might mean another project or short proposal for another client gets pushed ahead so it doesn’t need to interrupt my revision process.

Recently I told a client that I get through about 50 pages a day, which means a full manuscript can take me about eight actual working days (again, assuming that I can sit down daily for eight days to spend time on the manuscript). However, during some recent revisions I realized I lied or, more accurately, was overly optimistic. I think it’s more realistic to say that during a revision I can get through about 30-35 pages a day, and sometimes more like 25. Which means the revision of one manuscript can take me about three weeks.

Of course all of these counts are individual to me, will depend on what else is going on, how much work the book needs and my mood for the day. Just like your daily word count.

2 responses to “Revisions by the Numbers”

  1. Avatar Hollie says:

    I’m not sure if it’s because people don’t realise or or simply don’t think about how much time goes into revising a manuscript on a good day.

    If your preoccupied or had one too many coffees, anything but an action scene just won’t keep your attention. Even then you’re likely to miss something.

    I’ve never sat and thought about how my word count changes from one day to the next, depending on outside influences. But I have noticed that somedays I am happier working on different types of scenes than on others days.

  2. Avatar Caroline Larsen says:

    Thanks for this. As a fairly new editor, I’m still trying to get a feel for my editing/reviewing speed, which is of course variable depending on the manuscript. I’m also rather a slow reader, even when I’m reading for pleasure, so having these types of numbers to compare against gives me perspective and helps me learn how to set realistic expectations and goals.

    Do you think you could address a brief history/overview of literary agenting sometime on the blog? I didn’t even know that literary agencies were a thing until a couple years ago. (Again, fairly new editor here.)

    Love your blog. Keep up the good work!