"Editors are frantically busy -- single-working-mother-with-eight-kids busy -- they don't have time to make every piece into exactly what they want it to be. By delivering a rewrite and otherwise leaving the editor alone, you turn your editor's time poverty to your advantage." (http://www.helpingwriters.com/newsletter-archives/when-an-editor-wants-a-rewrite)
When an editor requests a rewrite of an article, it's usually a minor rewrite, where the bulk of the piece can be saved. While it's frustrating to have to rewrite your work, keep in mind that an editor is trying to anticipate the needs of the magazine. It doesn't necessarily mean that your writing is poor; it might just mean that you and the editor are coming at the piece from a different angle.
Keep in mind what Online Health editor Kathleen Donnelly advises: "Writers who are intractable and fight with us probably won't get another assignment". Unless you are Pierre Berton, who flew in the face of editors, you have to have at least some respect for the process.
What steps should you take to rewrite your article? Michelle Ruberg suggests these steps. First, re-read your query to see what you promised the editor. Second, re-read your assignment to see what the editor requested of you. Third, re-read your article and look for the following. Did you do one of the following?
-overshoot/undershoot your word count?
-write news that already appears elsewhere in the newspaper or magazine?
-cite too few sources?
-conduct garbage in/garbage out interviews?
-write a piece that is too close to what the competition is publishing?
-come at the article from the wrong angle?
-under/overwrite the piece for the target audience?
-use too many qualifiers, digressions or prepositional phrases?
-use too many quotes regarding a point already made?
What happens if you rewrite the piece and the editor still doesn't like it? Michelle Ruberg recommends asking the editor to rework one of your paragraphs. You follow the model for the other paragraphs. Use the three P's: patience, persistence and adherence to procedure. Don't focus just on the structure of the writing. Brian Smith of Indianapolis Monthly warns: "Some writers worry so much about getting individual facts straight that they don't hear the flow and what it does to the cadence of the story."
Michelle Ruberg says that any extra calls or extra trips on behalf of the magazine should be compensated. Request to see the galley of your piece before it goes to print. That way you're not attaching your name to something that you don't agree with. Stop at three rewrites. Enough is enough!
Blogger Scott Edelstein recommends that you don't mindlessly follow the editor's suggestions. Make changes that seem reasonable, but at the same time, do what's best for the piece. "Editors are frantically busy -- single-working-mother-with-eight-kids busy -- they don't have time to make every piece exactly what they want it to be. By delivering a rewrite and otherwise leaving the editor alone, you turn your editor's time poverty to your advantage."
Note: For more information, read Writer's Digest Handbook of Magazine Article Writing (Michelle Ruberg).