Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes (eh-eh-eh-editing)

I do not suffer from Delicate Flower Syndrome. Seriously, I have that in writing from an  email from a managing editor to an editor. 

Kill my darlings? Sure. Line them up against the wall and pass me a gun. No blindfolds. I want to see their faces as they weep and beg for mercy. 

Which brings me to today's post. Ch-ch-ch-changes. Whether it's constructive criticism or editorial directions, how well do you cope with making changes? 

The last book I wrote, the publisher said they would prefer it if I changed the ending. They would offer me a contract either way, but they would prefer it if I changed the ending. 

My first thought was: "But I like the ending. I wrote the whole thing leading up to that ending." 

My second thought was: "Yeah, I'm keeping the ending because they said they'll publish it either way." 

My third through to about my sixteenth thoughts all ran along those lines. But my seventeenth thought was the killer: 

"Hold on a minute. These guys are the professionals. They have experience, both as writers and as publishers, and they think a different ending will make my story better." 

If you're an artiste, stop reading now. If, like me, you see yourself as more like an artisan, you won't be offended by what I've got to say. Which is this:

Get over yourself and learn to adapt. 

If your beta readers suggest a change, consider it. If you have at least three or four beta readers and they all suggest the same change, that's what's called a consensus, and you'd be an idiot to ignore it. 

If your publisher suggests a change, consider it. They're a publisher. They know what will sell. They do this shit for a living. 

If an editor suggests a change, consider it.  Because your editor knows more than you about editing. That's why she's an editor and you're not. 

And guys, I'm not talking about the big stuff, the absolute-heart-of-the-story stuff. If they try to change that, then take a step back. Don't cross the line. The line is different for everyone, but you'll know it when you see it. And if you see it, don't sign the contract.

But once you make the decision that you're in this for real, once you're on the track to publication, then it's not just about you anymore. It's a team effort between your publisher, your editors, the cover art people, the advertising guys, and even that woman in accounting who sent you that nice email welcoming you aboard. 

And if you can't be a part of the team, you're playing the wrong game. 


  1. It’s definitely hard to get criticism. I recently read the first suggestions anyone had made on something I’d written, and my first reaction was “Harrumph – how dare they.”

    And then I remembered I’d actually asked them to tell me if they saw any way to improve it. So my second thought was, “Harrumph – they’re obviously wrong.”

    Finally I got up the nerve to actually read what they sent, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, they not only caught a few awkward phrases and mistakes, but showed how other sections could be improved, and so in the end I really appreciated it.

    I’m sure I’ll get kicked in the gut as time goes on, but I’m learning, and being open to learning is what it's all about.

    And to go with your Bowie title…

    So I read my book to read me,
    But I never caught a glimpse
    Of what some betas would see as bullcrap –
    My editor, she saved my ass.

    1. You know, all those Harrumphs make you sound a little curmudgeonly. :P

    2. I completely relate to this. "Here, here's this thing I wrote. I'd like you to read it and judge it, you know, without judging it please..."

      Writers are crazy. I don't know if it's the writing that makes us crazy, or we were crazy beforehand and it's only the writing keeping the crazy almost under control.

  2. No, no one would ever accuse you of Delicate Flower Syndrome. Glad you had the smarts to listen to your editor and make the needed changes. No one wants to work with a diva.

    1. I think it's always important to remember that editors are actually trying to help, not destroy everything you hold sacred.
      Even though sometimes it feels like that.

  3. "Get over yourself and learn to adapt" is great advice :). I think I cope well when making editorial changes, although I do grumble about it to myself. I may be a complainer, but I know when a change is right.

    1. Exactly! I often grumble my way through rewrites and tweaks and all of those awful time consuming little changes, but I always look back to see a stronger story. It's always been worth it.

  4. Such great advice. I'm at the stage where I need to find critique partners, and it's sort of nerve racking. But I think it's just excitement. I'm excited to see how my book can change for the better. :)

    1. It sounds like you have the right attitude, Madeline. It is scary, but it's also hugely rewarding. Good luck!

  5. I agree, critique partners should been neutral and not swayed by any association with the author. If you put your work out there, then be prepared to have it praised to the highest order and to have it slammed into the ground.

    It's hard, but take everything and use it to your best advantage.

    Hi, Jen - I be back :)

    1. Hi Mark! Nice to see you again.

      And I totally agree: it's hard. But it's worth it.



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