Editing: Five [More] Tips for Surviving the Revision Process

by Pamela Jane on July 11, 2011

Editors on Editing LogoPost #9 – Women’s Memoirs, Editors on Editing – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

[As you may know, Kendra and I are the Co-Coordinators for Story Circle Network's Editorial Service that gives you easy access to a team of professional editors. These editors are attuned to the stories women write -- memoirs as well as fiction. Your manuscript deserves respect…the best treatment…and an editor who understands you. That’s why SCN Editorial Service exists. When you’re ready for an editor, we’re ready for you.

We have an easy to understand fee structure, no open ended amounts or blank checks. Send either of us an email (kendra at womensmemoirs dot com or matilda at womensmemoirs dot com) and we’ll be glad to walk you through the process.


Today, Women’s Memoirs is delighted to bring you five tips from Pamela Jane Bell, a published author of 26 children’s books, that will help you sort through the editing comments an author gets back on her manuscript. This gives you a process for looking at and then making suggested changes. We think these will be helpful to you when you have an editor work with your memoir. Do you belong to a memoir writing critique group? If so, many of these suggestions will help you with the comments your sister writers provide.

You’ll notice that these are tips #6-#10. The first five tips have been published today on Story Circle Network’s blog, Telling Her Stories. Be sure to visit that site to read these helpful additional tips for revising a memoir based on the suggestions of an editor.

By Pamela Jane Bell

Over the past 30 years, I’ve received editing notes (they used to be letters that arrived in the mail) from a number of editors. While always valuable, these emails from editors can be overwhelming. Based on my experiences, I’ve put together a list of 10 tips for how to handle this post-editor revision process. To read the first five, click here.

6. Don’t worry about ruining your memoir11

This is a big one. Untangling the skein of a narrative can feel like you’re permanently unraveling it, or tying it in knots that you will never be able to undo. When you open your document, “save as” and give it a new name or date before you begin revising. It’s liberating to know that even if you do ruin it, you have the previous version intact.

7. Consult a friend or colleague

Ask a trusted friend or colleague to look over the editor’s suggestions and give you her reading on them. A friend can look at the criticism more objectively. If he or she is puzzled by the editor’s comments, that will encourage you to ask for clarification.

8. Pick up the telephone

But don’t throw it at anyone! Instead, call your editor. The give-and-take of a telephone conversation may be more productive than an email or a letter. Thinking out loud together can spark new ideas and lead to a solution or direction neither of you may have come up with alone.

9. Ask the editor to give the memoir manuscript a second look before you turn in the final revision or send it to an agent or decide to self-publish

It’s less intimidating to rewrite and revise knowing the editor will give your story a quick glance to see if you’re on the right track before you’ve finished revising. If you are not, that saves you a lot of rewriting. And if you are, you’ll move forward more confidently.

10. Don’t forget the house numbershouse numbers

For screenwriters, sticking a “house number” in a manuscript means inserting rough, inexact language to flag a spot that needs closer attention. Throwing in  “house numbers” where you need to revise or expand prevents you from getting slowed down when you’re composing at a nice, fast clip. Alternatively, some writers write in “TK” if they can’t think of the right word or need to do a spot of research at a later time. The letters “TK” don’t appear together in any English word, so when you want to fill in later, it’s easy to find your marker using the Find command.

These five tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how to survive – and triumph over – the revision process.

Do you have tips for successfully revising your memoir? Please leave us a comment; we’d love to share them with our readers!

To see the first half of this list of memoir revision tips, click on the link below:

The first five tips have been published today on Story Circle Network’s blog, Telling Her Stories.

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Editing: Five Tips for Surviving the Revision Process | Telling HerStories: The Broad View
July 11, 2011 at

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen July 11, 2011 at

This is all sound advice. I’d also add “Don’t get defensive and reject the editor’s suggestions out of hand.” I’ve seen writers turn their panic and insecurity into anger — “This stupid editor doesn’t know anything! It’s my story! How dare she!” and stubbornly refuse to change a word. True, editors are not always right 100 percent of the time, and it is YOUR story, but an unwillingness to take criticism does not bode well for either writer or her work. At a certain point, you have to be open to a collaborative process with others whom you trust to have the best interest of the WORK at heart.

Pamela Jane July 11, 2011 at


Thank you so much for sharing your sage advice about not getting defensive. You are so right and even I (in the distant past of course :) have been guilty of getting defensive over revision suggestions.

Pat July 11, 2011 at

I love the TK tip, Pamela!

Linda Hoye July 11, 2011 at

Another set of fine tips. For those of us, like me, who are going through the process for the first time it is always useful to hear how others with more experience have taken the journey. I’ve learned in my professional life that sometimes a short telephone conversation can clarify what a long string of email exchanges fail to, so #8 certainly rings true to me! #9 is another reason why I am impressed with the SCN/ES and the comprehensive edit because it provides just that – a second pass through the manuscript after revisions are complete. And #10? Well that’s just brilliant! Simple and brilliant!

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Pamela. And thank you Matilda and Kendra for featuring Pamela.

Pamela Jane July 11, 2011 at

Thanks so much for your comment, Linda, and I’m glad the tips are helpful! Good luck with revising and let us know how it goes!

Matilda Butler July 11, 2011 at


Thanks for this great post. I’d never heard of a “house number.” Such a great way to explain a temporary marker. My habit is always to use xxx. I started that back with the first word processing tool I used in the early 1970s that ran on a mainframe at Stanford University — an IBM System 360 — and it was primarily a line editor. Word processing and therefore our ability to edit our work has flowered in the years since then.

Pamela Jane July 11, 2011 at


What an interesting story and bit of computer history! To tell the truth, I use xxx a lot if I happen to be jumping around the ms. and want to find my back to where I was. Times have changed a lot since typewriters and carbon paper!

Kendra Bonnett July 11, 2011 at

I’m a TKTKTer myself. Thanks for sharing all the great tips. Kendra

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