Reading Edits without Making it Personal
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 09 2015
Looking back on my younger self I would say one of my most cringe-worthy character flaws was my
struggle inability to admit I was wrong. I’d like to think this isn’t uncommon in the young, that part of growing up is learning that its okay to be wrong, but I also suspect I had a pretty bad case of “the rights.”
I find sometimes that the biggest struggle authors (some not all) have with revisions isn’t that they necessarily disagree with the editor, but that revisions somehow make them feel like they were wrong or somehow failed.
There’s never an easy answer to how to handle feelings or insecurities. Let’s face it, when you’re feeling anxious someone telling you to not worry makes you want to beat her, it doesn’t make you calmer.
My best advice in a situation like this is always to try to step back and evaluate what you’re feeling and why you’re resistant to something. It’s also to remember what I’m telling you. Revisions are never, ever, ever about you. No editor, or agent, reads revisions and thinks of the author. What they think about is the book, the characters and the market.
When editing I’m usually so wrapped up in the book and what can be done to take it from shiny to glowing that I rarely think of the author’s feelings (still a character flaw of mine). I just want to make this the absolute best book I’ve ever read and it is my job to help you make that happen. Key word, “help.”
Perhaps it helps to look at the revision notes as a vote of confidence. It's like your critic (beta reader, critique partner, agent, editor) is saying, "I know you're a talented writer, so I know you can come up with something better than this." Good writing ability isn't about writing wonderful things every time. But it's being able to see when your writing could be better–which may mean agreeing with your critic–and figuring out how to improve it.
That's how I look at it, anyway. 🙂
THIS is perfect and goes with your post from yesterday. Writers need to remember that this is a business. It's not about hurt feelings. It's about making the best product to sell.
My usual response to harsh edits is generally "ouch!" But then, after I've licked my wounds and sucked enough sympathy from my fellow writing groupies, I return, tail between legs for another look.
In the second pass, more often that not, I realize that the edits are helping, and that every time I apply them my work aspires to a new level (I hope.) The editor is the gardener pruning back weeds, allowing the writer to grow and flourish. Don't feel bad – I was going to say you're the fertilizer but that's taking the analogy in a direction I didn't want to go, LOL.
Having just gone through what I consider my very first really tough edits (and I've got around forty books published over the past dozen years) I think my biggest problem with edits when my editor sees another direction for my story, or wants me to change major parts of the story (and I'll leave out the fact that on some level I know those edits will make it a stronger story) is that I have absolute tunnel vision where my writing is involved. I see it MY way via my characters' input, and I'm struggling to see things any differently than the original story played out in my head.
What got me out of my editorial quagmire on the last set of edits–after my panic-stricken call to Jessica–was her approach of line editing rather than overall editorial notes, which helped me focus on the individual issues at hand.
As authors, we all see our projects differently. I write in a very linear fashion with my characters "telling" me their story, so when I work on edits from an editor, I'm dealing with their vision for the book along with my characters' vision, along with my innate stubbornness in wanting to do it my way.
I've learned that I need to work harder on those internal editorial conferences.
Truth. I got my first critiques from a writers' group (fortunate; no agent, let alone a publisher, needed to be exposed to my writing, or my tantrums, at that point), and what taught me perspective was not so much being at the receiving end but watching others react to feedback. It was a mirror, I suppose. When a member sent back a harsh reply to a critique, when they complained that no one "got" their story… Yes, I did those things, too, but seeing it from the other side, as a provider of feedback and as an observer, was what gave me the distance to understand that, without feedback–edits, critiques, suggestions–there is no growth.
Great post. Thank you for sharing.
Guilie @ Quiet Laughter
Sometimes I'm a bit surprised by some of the things my crit partners suggest, especially if I think I've already done what they asked. But after considering their words for a while, I can usually figure out what is was that *really* bothered them, and then I go back and fix that. Approach crits with an open mind.
The main reason I might balk at revisions isn't that my ego's bruised; it's that revisions are work. Ugh. I thought I was DONE and now I have to go back and do it OVER?
After the initial bout of laziness, I buckle down and do what has to be done to make the story better. I absolutely want to present the best writing I can, so bring on those critiques. Like Ken above says, sometimes you have to sift through the feedback to get to the real problem, but once I see it, I have to fix it. No matter how much work it might be.
Please, please tell me if my slip is showing, my mascara is smeared or that I have toilet paper stuck to my shoe. I wanna' know, just so I can look my best and not like a dork.
Edit, rewrite, no problem. I don't mind hiking up, refreshing and scuffing my shoe. I do refuse to touch the toilet paper though, I do have my limits.
I see edits as part of the job of writer. Of course, I'm not published, so it's easy for me to say that. I just hope I remember how I feel now when I do receive my first lot of edits *grin*.