Posted On July 16, 2012 by Print This Post

The Revision Process: Unpublished to Published with Sarah M. Anderson

It is funny how small  the romance writing world is. We work together here at RU to schedule guests and while I wasn’t the person to initially talk with Sarah, I slid her into my week.  I didn’t realize that she was the same Sarah – the funny, witty, sweet one with the rockin’ cowboy hat – that I was chatting with on Twitter.  Once, I put it all together, I knew this was going to be a fab post.  I was sooo right . . . .

Revision Process from Unpublished to Published

It’s great to be back at Romance University! Today I want to talk about something that snuck up on me when I went from unpublished to published: The revision process.

When I was unpublished, the revision process was a fairly low-stress event. I wrote a book. I read the book, making changes. If I had made a lot of changes, I reread it again. Then I would email it to my mom (Hi, Mom!) and, after making any corrections she had (which were few and far between), I would print it off and take it to my beta reader. After I made her corrections (one day, I’ll understand the difference between ‘beside’ and ‘besides’), I’d consider it ‘done’ and start querying that bad boy.

That was it. So when I sold my first book, I thought, “Yes! I’ve got this process down now!”

How wrong I was.

I still go through the entire process above, but instead of that being ‘the end’ of the writing process, it’s actually just the beginning. It turns out that, for the most part, what I called the ‘revision’ process was actually what editors call ‘line edits.’ Revision, in professional terms, involves substantial rewrites, frequently of whole beginnings, middles, or endings (or, heaven helps us, all of the above). So for that first book I sold, A Man of His Word, I had to rewrite the ending 3.2 times. Three completely different endings, and then two revisions on the final versions.

It was much worse for my current release, A Man of Privilege. The good news was that I wrote the book in seven weeks. The bad news was that the rewrite—of the middle and the end—took eight weeks. Eight weeks of being convinced I was never going to see my name on a book cover ever again.

That level of revision—of working hard on something, having it tossed out in its entirety or near-entirety, writing something else that still works with your vision of the story and the characters, having that tossed or partially tossed again—that’s what I was unprepared for, because I’d never done it before.

Then, once you get a middle and/or an ending that is structurally time, only THEN do I get back to what I used to consider revision—the line edits that check for grammar, word repetition (guilty!), and that the horse is a Palomino on page 4 and page 187. And again, I was unprepared for the professional line edits I got.

I figured that, because the book had gone through me (I do edits at my day job), my beta readers and grammar checkers, my agent, and of course my mom (Hi, Mom!), I figured, what on earth could be left to edit in this book? The answer? A heck of a lot. Try 74 comments. In one revised book. On a book that had been good enough to sell.

It was demoralizing, to be sure. (Why yes, I was the teacher’s pet back in school. Why do you ask?) The straight-up fact is that I had made this book the very best book I possibly could—and it still wasn’t good enough for print.

But here’s where you, the author, prove that you’re a professional worth working with. If you find yourself facing this avalanche of rewrites and edits, how can you cope? You’ve heard this before—have a glass of wine, call your critique partner and cry/complain it out, and eat some chocolate. Give it three days, then get back at it. If need be, you grit your teeth and power through it, like a particularly challenging Zumba workout.

And you know what happens when you revise and rewrite and edit and polish until you can’t stand the sight of that book one more time?

What happens is that, a year or so later, that book gets published, people tell you how beautifully it’s written, and give you stunning reviews. A Man of Privilege—which took longer to rewrite than write, which had to have a new middle and a new ending, which came close to breaking me—was Romance Times’ Top Pick, with 4 ½ stars, for July.

The revision process I used when I was unpublished left me unprepared for the revision process a published author undergoes. But the important thing to remember is that it’s never too late to learn a new process!

I’m giving away a copy of A Man of Privilege to one lucky commentator. Plus—bonus—every week I’m giving away one of these handcrafted (by me!) book necklaces from everyone who commented throughout the week! Check the Authorial Moms blog every Sunday to see if you were the winner!


Readers, do you have a revision process or questions about how to transition?

On Wednesday the Story Orgy group is here to talk about Group Dynamics and Writing. Don’t miss it!


A Man of Privilege:

She isn’t what he expected.

Blue-blood lawyer James Carlson is working on the case of his life. After winning this trial, his career will be set. He won’t let anything…or anyone… alter his course. Then he meets his witness.
Maggie Eagle Heart makes him question everything–his family, his goals, his future. Because she’s the one woman he wants, and she’s the one woman who is completely off limits. Yet even as he struggles to keep their relationship all about business, he can’t deny the attraction is mutual–and irresistible.

James has always done what is expected of him…until now.

A Man of Privilege is available! Visit your favorite bookseller, at Amazon, or for the Nook.

Bio: Award-winning author Sarah M. Anderson may live east of the Mississippi River, but her heart lies out west on the Great Plains. With a lifelong love of horses and two history teachers for parents, it wasn’t long before her characters found themselves out in South Dakota among the Lakota Sioux. She loves to put people from two different worlds into new situations and to see how their backgrounds and cultures take them someplace they never thought they’d go.

When not helping out at school or walking her rescue dogs, Sarah spends her days having conversations with imaginary cowboys and American Indians, all of which is surprisingly well-tolerated by her wonderful husband and son.

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This post is brought to you as part of the A Man of Privilege/Distinction Blog Tour. For a complete tour schedule and rules, visit Comments on this blog will be entered to win a signed copy of A Man of Privilege.

Next tour stop is July 18: Amy Alessio’s Vintage Food Blog

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52 Responses to “The Revision Process: Unpublished to Published with Sarah M. Anderson”

  1. Great post! Thank you! My dear, dear friend and crit partner is just about to go through the revision process, herself, and despite having an idea of it, we’re on pins and needles.

    We’ve both come to terms, now, with the fact that pre-submission editing, while difficult (I’m doing it, now, not-so-excited yay!), the process she’s about to begin is where all the dirty work happens.

    I’ll pass this along to her and keep it around for when (not if!) I hit it, myself!

    Best of luck to you on your blog tour!

    Posted by Fiona Druce | July 16, 2012, 12:18 am
  2. Holy sh*t

    Sarah I just signed my first contract only a few days ago and as I type one handed, the other hand is reaching for a bottle of Vodka.

    A completely new ending and middle??? Oh, no!

    Wow, I had no idea. Thanks for making me a little better prepared…I will now drink until my nerves have settled and I can find my happy place.

    Lol, great post!

    Posted by Eden Summers | July 16, 2012, 12:20 am
  3. Very impressed with your attitude toward revision, and thanks for promoting how important and ultimately how worthwhile it is.

    Now I want to read your book!

    Posted by M | July 16, 2012, 1:24 am
    • Revisions are so important because after a certain point, I really don’t think authors can ‘see’ where the faults lie in their own work. I certainly can’t see word repetition–I need fresh eyes for that alone! A lot of times I’ll get something pointed out to me and it’s a head-smack moment–DUH! Why didn’t I SEE that! That’s why it’s so important to revise!

      Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 16, 2012, 6:28 am
  4. Sarah – Thanks so much for being here with us!

    What was your favorite part of the revision process?


    Posted by Robin Covington | July 16, 2012, 4:53 am
    • I won’t say I love it, but….My favorite thing is where there’s a part that just isn’t quite right, and I know it’s a little off, but I have no idea why or how to fix it, and the editor calls me on it and points me in the correct direction and it suddenly makes sense. Those are the times that I love revision because everything clicks and writing it is like breathing air!

      Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 16, 2012, 6:30 am
  5. Thanks for an informative (& accurate) description of what being a professional write involves. I’ve been a writer of everything from men’s magazine articles to paperback originals to NYTimes bestsellers & I live by one rule: It’s not the writing. It’s the rewriting.

    IME rewriting is actually the most interesting, exciting & creative stage. Not many second chances in life but in revision, there are second, third, fourth chances to “get it just right.”

    Embrace the rewrite. It’s a writer’s best friend & staunchest ally.

    Posted by Ruth Harris | July 16, 2012, 5:21 am
  6. I’m at a point where I’m excited to revise; even if it’s tedious, I always learn something.

    Posted by Stephanie Scott | July 16, 2012, 6:25 am
  7. the revision process that i ever done when i sent my thesis to my lecturer and the process is really make me so stressing, spend my energy, time and money. really hope that all can be done soon 🙂

    Posted by eli yanti | July 16, 2012, 6:28 am
  8. Great blog post, Sarah. I was so happy with getting a publishing contract for a future project I thought I’d happily do the editing – until I hit round 9 including copy editing. I did learn a lot though as you say and hopefully it all builds for the future!

    Posted by Amy Alessio | July 16, 2012, 6:47 am
  9. I spend so much time revising, you’d think I’d get it right by now. Still working on it! Thanks for a very helpful post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | July 16, 2012, 7:00 am
  10. Thanks for illuminating the difference between editing and revising. Sounds like hard work, but also sounds like a great education in story structure, craft, and storytelling. Glad your book has been so well received. Congratulations!

    Posted by PatriciaW | July 16, 2012, 7:51 am
  11. Hi Sarah,

    I’m in the middle of the revision process with my second book. I have to remind myself my editor likes this book when she suggests major changes.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | July 16, 2012, 8:21 am
  12. Hi Sarah! I feel your pain. Literally, since we share an editor. 🙂 The hardest thing for me was the “DOH!” factor when I saw some of the comments. You mean I missed THAT and I dare to call myself a professional writer?? But the books is so much better now with that editorial input and I’m so grateful for it. I sincerely hope I’ll get as positive a response on my edited book as you did with yours.

    Wishing you lots of sales!!

    PS Everyone should run out and buy Sarah’s books because she can write! Plus, she is one of the nicest, most genuine people out there.

    Posted by Kat Cantrell | July 16, 2012, 10:17 am
  13. Top Pick! 4 1/2 stars! WOOT! Great to see all that hard work pay off 🙂

    Dealing with huge cuts and changes to the MS while staying true to vision of story and characters – that is exactly what I fear I will struggle with…thanks for describing your experience so some of us not-yet-pubbed have an idea of what to expect.

    Posted by Melonie Johnson | July 16, 2012, 10:42 am
    • Glad to help, Melonie! And I do think that most editors understand that most debut authors have little-to-no idea how big this jump is. Every editor I’ve worked with so far has been very patient in explaining what happens next. Granted, it’s only two editors, but still–loads of patience!

      Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 16, 2012, 11:12 am
  14. Welcome back, Sarah. I have to admit, I’m one of the twisted people who actually enjoys the revision process. Of course, I always have to read the revision letter and let it sit for a day or two so I can separate my emotions from the process, but once I do that, I love digging in!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | July 16, 2012, 11:28 am
    • Hi Adrienne! I find that letting the letter sit for a day (or three in my case) is *always* a good thing. Not only does it give me time to get used to the editing ideas, but it gives my subconscious some time to process it as well!

      Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 16, 2012, 2:37 pm
  15. Hi Sarah!

    I don’t mind revisions. The process improves my writing and even though I thought I knew the story cold, the revisions bring me closer to the story.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us today.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | July 16, 2012, 12:24 pm
  16. I can’t believe it! I went through this with my current YA novel. It went through two incredible beta readers, one editor, got rewritten twice, then the main character’s age changed from eighteen to sixteen.

    And I still haven’t started round two of querying (still working on a letter to blow the competition out of the water).

    I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me!

    Amy Croall
    Author of “A Cure for the Condition”
    Impossible Love with Real Characters

    Posted by Amy Croall | July 16, 2012, 1:18 pm
  17. Afternoon Sarah!

    I’m one of those who has to let it sit. I go through the stages of grief….what do you MEAN this sentence makes no sense!!! and denial….they just don’t know what they’re talking about! it’s perfect!!!..and finally acceptance……well, I guess if I changed a few words it would be clearer.

    Sometimes that takes hours, but generally it’s 2-3 days, usually involves chocolate and Corona. =)

    Thanks for posting your process with us – it helps!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | July 16, 2012, 3:43 pm
  18. Hi Sarah,

    We met in Chicago at Spring Fling. Revisions are never ending for me right now. I had 4 books that I’d thought were completed before my agent’s assistant, the fabulous, Claire Cavanaugh got a hold of them, but it’s totally worth it.

    Posted by Ella Quinn | July 16, 2012, 5:40 pm
  19. I’ve just finished A Man of His Word and about to dive into A Man of Privilege. Have also been wandering around singing Hey Big Spender so obviously my subconscious is looking for A Man of Distinction.
    Great writing and a fascinating story so far.

    Posted by Fiona Marsden | July 16, 2012, 8:09 pm
  20. I’ve had almost the opposite experience. In my 4 traditionally published novels, I’ve had very little content editing or line editing. (More for work for hire nonfiction.)

    But on the other hand, I’ve done the kind of editing you’re talking about ahead of time, on my own or with critique partners. Over time, I developed a questionnaire with about 50 questions to help me analyze my stories. (my “Plot Outline Exercise” is available as a free download on my website (

    One way or the other, the editing has to be done! You were lucky to work with editors who helped make your book stronger.

    Posted by Kris Bock | July 16, 2012, 10:23 pm
  21. Thank you for the great post! I love writing stories. They pour out of me, but when it gets to the editing stage, I am a mess. I think I’m the worse writer, I wonder why I do it, I beat myself up.

    How do you stay positive in the mist of all the rewrites/edits/revision?

    Thanks so much!

    Posted by Melinda Dozier | July 17, 2012, 8:00 am
    • Melinda, I don’t always manage to stay positive. Privilege nearly broke me, the rewrite was so difficult. I think it’s okay to be a little bit of a mess, but it’s important to realize that you are being a mess and then get on with it anyway. Revision is a temporary state–although sometimes it feels less temporary than others. Like my favorite fish Dory says, Just keep Swimming!

      Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 17, 2012, 8:43 am
  22. My great friend, fellow crit group member and eagle-eyed noticer (is that a word) of telling not showing, dangling modifiers comma splices and disembodied parts, Doris, and I always ‘redit’ (don’t you just love that word?) for each other.
    We pick up on different things. this is after we’ve revised re looked re read and eaten excess of chocolate. Only then do we send it to our publisher/editor.

    It’s great to have someone who knows just what you are going through!

    Posted by raven mcallan | July 18, 2012, 6:51 am
  23. Congrats to Patricia W, who won a copy of A Man of Privilege! Thanks to everyone who commented!

    Posted by Sarah M. Anderson | July 23, 2012, 1:51 pm


  1. […] Was I wasting my time? Should I have given up on this one—started over again? But then I read this blog post, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Not only wasn’t I along, I was on the right track […]

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