Rewriting: How to Deal With Comments

Okay, so there it is–your manuscript.  You’ve just gotten it back from your beta readers. Or your editor. Or your agent. Perhaps it is a lovely stack of papers with writing all over the page. Or maybe it is a file on the computer, laden with those little comment boxes.

You’ve read over all the comments.  You agree with most of them. You’re ready to dig in.  But there you sit, staring at the pages. Where to start? Sometimes the sheer number of comments, written or digital, can feel daunting.

(Take it from someone who, earlier this week, invented all sorts of excuses as to why she couldn’t dive into her commented-upon manuscript. Because it’s snowing! Because I need to find my tax receipts! Because I really must finish knitting that sweater front. Lame, every single one of them.)

So here’s some guidance.

  • To begin, read, or at least glance, through the manuscript, so that you can get a feel for the gist of the comments. This is a safe, easy way to get started. You don’t really have to do anything, you’re just getting the lay of the land.
  • Now take a break for chocolate and coffee. Or wine.  It’s five o-clock somewhere, right?
  • Now that you’re revived, get back to it. Have paper and pen handy. Start working your way through the comments, with these caveats, one at a time. But here are some rules that will help you not faint with the effort:

–If you can deal with it quickly and easily, do it.

–If you’re flummoxed by a comment, or you don’t feel like dealing with it yet, skip it.  Make a deal with yourself that you will do this. You don’t want to get stuck obsessing over a comment. Better to move on and get some momentum going.

–If the comment is speaking to a larger issue, make a note about it on your paper.  You might need to parse out some ideas about it and the paper is the place to do it.

  • Take a break! More chocolate! Or maybe some popcorn. Few things better.
  • Okay, back at it. Continue working your way through the comments, accepting them as you’ve finished them, and noting the ones that will take more thought on your paper.
  • Once you’re all the way through the comments, go back to the ones you skipped or that need more work. Now that you’ve bravely gotten this far, you’re on a roll and momentum will carry you through.
  • You’re done! Celebrate. Champagne? Nah. Maybe just more red wine.

By the way, I wrote another post on rewriting earlier this week.  This one was on draft passes, a useful concept at a certain point in your rewriting. So go to it!

Let me know how it goes. Leave a comment!