Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 30, 2009

Your Editor Wants a Rewrite

Scott Edelstein from his Helping Writers Newsletter, wrote a nice piece about what to do when an editor wants a rewrite and you don’t agree with the suggestions. Below is part of his article, When An Editor Wants A Rewrite.

Consider this common dilemma: you send a piece to an editor, who emails you back saying they basically like it, but need you to make some changes. As you review those changes, however, you realize you disagree with most of them. What do you do?

Most people think they have four options:

Option 1: swallow hard, take a deep breath, and do what the editor asks. Your work then gets published in a form you’re not happy with.
Option 2: send the editor a long email explaining which items you’re happy to change, which ones you won’t, and why. This asks your editor to spend a big chunk of time – time editors don’t have , since they are absurdly overworked.  Do that and many would rather just reject your piece.
Option 3: call the editor to have a detailed phone discussion. This is a voice-to-voice version of option 2 — and will likely create the same result.
Option 4: withdraw the piece and try to place it elsewhere. This strongly discourages the editor from ever working with you again.

Clearly, none of these options will do. Here’s what I recommend instead:

First, unless you’re on a very tight deadline, don’t respond to the editor’s request for two or three days. Give your unconscious a chance to further process the editor’s suggestions.

Second, don’t discuss specifics with the editor, either by phone or email. Instead, send a brief email that says, “Many thanks for your suggestions for revising my piece. I’ll get you a new version by (date).”

Third, rewrite the piece. Make whatever changes seem reasonable. Also make any changes you don’t agree with that don’t harm the piece. But if you feel something shouldn’t change, don’t change it. In spots where you agree that a change is needed, but you disagree with what the editor suggested, do whatever you feel is best.

Fourth, send the rewrite to the editor, along with a note that says something like this: “Dear ____: Here’s the rewrite I promised you. I’ve incorporated many of your suggestions; in other cases where you correctly spotted problems, I came up with alternative solutions. I think the piece now looks quite good. If you have any more questions or concerns, let me know. Regards, _______.”

Most editors understand that writers won’t agree with them all the time. They don’t expect your rewrite to be perfect, and they don’t expect perfect compliance from you.”

Read the full article by clicking here: 

Helping Writers Newsletter is free.


  1. Kathy, that’s good advice from Scott. I’ve recently gone through just about every step he mentions. An editor sent back so many revision suggestions that I had to set the whole thing aside (in my case for a month) before I dared come back to it. For the next month or two I carefully reflected on her suggestions, accepting most of them, discarding a few for various good reasons, and changing other spots in what I considered a more appropriate way. I feel good about the finished job and am now waiting to hear back from my editor. I think she’ll agree that together we’ve made the manuscript better.


    • David,

      Thanks for the great comment. Sometime writers think authors who have a list of books published, don’t have to do anything except submit. Your comment reminds everyone that even someone who has published 80 books still has to do all those things mentioned and that the steps sound right.



  2. This is great common sense advice, because certainly the editor has a lot to offer and will know a lot more than we, yet on the other hand, there are things we feel “make” our story and may need to stay. This is advice a writer can live with.


  3. Jeanne,

    Well, I managed to get through this weekend with the Mentoring Retreat. Wish you could have joined us. We had a really good time. I hope to get some time this week to work on my revisions.



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