Editorial Letters

There’s an interesting thread over at Verla Kay’s discussion boards for children’s writers and illustrators right now.  It’s about the editorial letter — the letter that shows up from your editor a few weeks or months after your book has been sold.  Editorial letters can be anywhere from a few lines to many pages, and they talk about what your editor would like to see in revisions before your book goes to copy editing.

I’m in the middle of two revisions with two different editors right now, and I completely understand the feeling of being overwhelmed (especially when someone is, you know, expecting to see a new draft by a certain date – yikes!).  With both, I found that I read the editorial letter and then left it on a corner of my desk for a few days, stealing glances at it like it was some wild animal that had gotten into the house that I wasn’t sure how to deal with.  Kind of like the time I opened our garage door and found a raccoon up on the shelf next to the sidewalk chalk, gnawing on a corn cob from the garbage and staring at me with red alien eyes. I crept away quietly and went inside to think about it for a while. 

The raccoon wandered away on its own.  My editorial letters don’t do that, though, so it helps me a lot to take a letter and turn it into a very simple, bulleted, to-do list on a single sheet of paper.  That allows me to sit down and pick ONE JOB each night, crossing it off when I’m done. It makes the whole thing feel much more manageable.  Right now, my to-do list looks like this:

New beginning – add classroom scene
Make time frame clear
VG – change so she’s not new at school
KB – add character trait
Annie- develop idea of 2 worlds
Add conversation w/ teacher
Add scene w/ James
More scenes w/ Sparky
New ending

Does anyone else have tips/tricks/words of wisdom for digging into a revision after the editorial letter arrives?

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