Critique Etiquette: Should You Resubmit Revisions?

Photo credit: cellar_door_films on Flickr
So you’ve won a critique of your query letter, or first page, or first paragraph, or first fifty pages, etc. Or maybe you’ve come across a writer whose giving away critiques for free, or an event in which a bunch of writers give away critiques, or whatever the case may be. Point is, you’ve won a critique and you’re excited—and you should be! Critiques are exciting. And a little nerve-wracking. But worth being excited over. 

You send your critique off and you wait. Maybe the writer sends it back in an hour, maybe in a week, maybe longer, but regardless of how long it is, it feels like forever. Then the critique arrives in your inbox and you open it and…

Wow. That’s a lot of red. 

But you’re a writer! So you take the notes and you use it to rework your submission, but you’re not totally sure that it’s better. Or that those changes you made really worked. What if you made it worse? Oh God, what if you ruined it? What if?

At this point, you’re probably feeling pretty tempted to send it back to the writer who left you those helpful edit notes to take a second look at it. Just to make sure you didn’t go overboard. Or you didn’t miss the point of the notes. Mostly you just want to make sure you didn’t destroy your work. 

But while it is so tempting to resubmit that revision to the writer in question, and trust me, my lovely writers, I know how tempting it is, should you do it? Should you resubmit that revision? 

There are two possible scenarios with two very different answers. 

  • Scenario 1: The editor invited you to resubmit a revision x-number of times. This happens! It does, and when it does, it’s wonderful and I hope you thank that person profusely if you decide to take them up on their offer, because they’re not obligated to offer, but they did, and that’s really awesome of them. If this is your scenario, then send away! And be happy because the editor will reassure you that you aren’t losing your mind. 

  • Scenario 2: The editor did not mention anything about resubmitting a revision. This also happens. If this is your scenario, then do not resubmit, at least, not without asking first.

    The thing is, winning a critique is not an automatic invitation to submit your revisions afterwards. Many editors or critiquing writers consider freebies a one-off, and rightfully so—you’re getting their services and their time for free, and the thing with revisions is they can go on pretty much forever if you let them. They take a lot of time, and not everyone is able to give away that much time for free.

    You see, it’s not that one revision is a big deal—the issue is that when you ask an editor (or whoever is looking at your work) to look at your revisions without an invitation, you’re asking them to do so for anyone who asks, however many times they ask. Because once you say yes to one person, it’s much more difficult to say no to someone else, or even no to the same person when they want to send a third or fourth revision.

    By asking someone to take a second look at your work, when they hadn’t agreed or opened the door for you to do so, you’re putting them in an uncomfortable situation. On one hand, saying no isn’t fun, but saying yes makes it even more difficult to say no later. 

It’s a simple enough mistake, and I totally understand why some writers don’t realize that this is something than can make for a very uncomfortable situation for the person editing your work. Just remember: when in doubt, ask. But definitely don’t assume the answer is yes. 

Note: Just to be clear, I’m not writing this post to reprimand anyone. As I follow many editors on Twitter, I’ve seen this issue mentioned more than a couple times, so being that it’s not often discussed, I figured I’d write about it. 

Also, in paid or swapping situations, this is usually established right from the beginning. But if not, the safest thing to assume is if they didn’t invite a resubmission, you shouldn’t resubmit. Though if you’re not sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask. 

What critique etiquette tips do you have?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Is it ok to resubmit revisions after a critique? Here's why you may want to pause before you do. (Click to tweet)  
"Winning a critique is not an automatic invitation to submit your revisions afterwards." (Click to tweet


Jen Donohue said...

It wouldn't occur to me to resubmit if that hadn't bee covered in the "negotiations". But I think it might be the nature of writers to overthink everything in a "just in case" scenario!

Ava Jae said...

I definitely agree on the overthinking front. It's a struggle, particularly because so much weighs on the final version of the writing.

Jen Donohue said...

Contacts in publishing are also so very important, so a misstep of any level seems like a terribly critical error.

You want everybody to come away happy, or at least vaguely satisfied, and don't want to overstep bounds or assume to much, but also want to take advantage of presented opportunities.

Ava Jae said...

Very well said, Jen. It's a tough balance, and I think the best way to avoid accidental overstepping is to not make any assumptions and just ask. In this case at least, I'd say it's better to ask permission than to ask forgiveness.

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...