When a publisher acquires the rights to a book, that happy deal is commonly followed by a revision letter. The editor sends this letter to the writer, and it covers the changes (or the first set of changes) that the editor suggests. Often there is more than one revision letter.
I thought I'd describe my revision process in response to editorial letters. This discussion is on the general side--I'm not going to reproduce correspondence from my editor here--but I think it's more useful anyway to look at the overall process. These are the steps I followed:
1. Read letter. In general, an editorial letter is like a critique, except this time you are getting feedback from someone who has championed your book at the publisher's, has gotten them to put money into it, and has agreed to spend months going over the manuscript and shepherding it through the launch process. This person has made a serious commitment to your book, and wants it to be its very best bookish self. Therefore, while this letter is not a series of directions that must be followed without question, it is wise to give considerable weight to the editor's recommendations. It's even easier to do so when you agree with the input!
2. Digested letter. This involved just letting the letter simmer in my subconscious for a day or two. Other writers had advised me not to jump right into changing the ms., and this advice worked well for me.
3. Reread the manuscript. I did this to reacquaint myself with the project (after all, while my contract was being negotiated, I was writing other things), and to view the ms. through the lens of the editorial letter.
4. Outlined the book, and figured out where I was going to add scenes and where I was going to remove them. Where I had to move a scene, I used the outline to help me figure out the best way to do that.
When it comes to first-draft writing, I'm a "plunger." Sometimes I use a very sketchy outline, but I drift from it as I write. However, I find outlines useful in the revision stage, when I have all the puzzle pieces and I'm deciding how to arrange them.
5. Did a couple of character sketches to deepen my understanding of their motivations.
6. Went through the ms. in order, making the smaller corrections along the way, and adding and removing scenes in accordance with my outline.
7. Made some graphs and charts to look at the places where three important characters appeared. Evaluated their influence on the book's events. Figured out where one character in particular needed to appear more, went back to the outline, and added scenes accordingly.
I made a calendar tracking exactly on which date each scene in the book happened. Most of the dates don't appear in the actual book, but it helped me ensure that seasonal details were appropriate. I also drew a crude map of the characters' town. (I had always had such a map in my head, but I finally put it on paper for my own information.)
8. Did several passes through the ms., each time focusing on particular issues (e.g., one pass for prose rhythm, one pass to check the overall pacing and plotting, etc.).
9. Did a close pass looking for any last spelling or punctuation errors, awkward or cliched or repeated words, etc.
10. While I had referred back to the editorial letter throughout, I gave it one last read to make sure I had considered everything.
No two writers follow exactly the same path as they write and revise, but I know other writers have done some of the same things I did--some in the same order, some in a different order. I was grateful for those writers who had blogged about their experience, because it gave me some idea what to expect. So I hereby pass it on!