*I should point out that I have absolutely NO DESIRE to punch either of my editors in the throat.
Both Jenn and Karen are lovely, professional, talented people and I’m thrilled to be working with the pair of them. But these tips are worth mentioning… and I wanted a post title that would catch your attention. 😛
I got my edits back for ‘Slippers & Chains‘ on Wednesday. Only the first round, but it’s taken me this long to let the comments simmer so I can look at them like a rational person.
I got a wonderful email from Jenn (my Breathless editor) on Wednesday. She told me in plain English what was good, what was less so, what was strong, what could use propping up. She outlined her thoughts on structure, pacing, characterisation and style, all of which pleased me no end.
Then I opened up the document.
It was covered in comment balloons. Like totally covered. All over.
Something in my gut twisted like a corkscrew when I saw it.
My knee jerk reaction was anger.
What? What do you mean more emotion/reaction/action? Is it not clear from my beautifully constructed narrative and totally on-the-mark dialogue? Whatever happened to letting the reader do a bit of work and figure it out? You want me to spell out every little thing?
Followed quickly by doubt.
Maybe she’s right. Look at this here; there’s plenty of space to get deeper into Karen’s head. What if I’ve done this all the way through? Maybe I really do need to look harder into this bit—but I thought it was clear. My betas understood what I meant. Maybe it’s because they know me too well. Or were they just too polite to say? Did I read all their notes all the way through?
Chased by terror.
It’s not good enough. Breathless are going to turn me away. They won’t want it any more now they know how awful it is. God, I can’t do this. It’s shit. The whole thing is shit. I’m shit. I can’t write. This was a stupid idea. I should have stayed at the bank. I can’t do this. I can’t, I can’t!
I thought my head was going to explode.
Granted, I was reading this email and the attached document at 11.45 pm having just crawled into bed after an exhausting day. I had a headache too and a brain already full of all how to arrange a haircut for the sprogs without more embarrassing tears (yes, I cried during Sprog1’s first haircut, not him, me! Cried like a pussy. And kept a few pieces of hair. Yes… I’m a freak).
So I was already fragile.
But these six tips are what I’m working to keep in my head as I go through the edits. Six important details which hopefully stop me (and you guys) erupting like Krakatoa each time I see a new comment balloon.
Stay Calm (Don’t Panic)
Don’t read your editor’s comments for the first time when you’re emotional/angry/tired/stressed. It won’t help you. Your brain is already rammed with whatever the hell else you have going on, adding this to the teetering stack will send the whole lot toppling like a stack of badly lain bricks.
Wait for a calm moment, Have a cup of tea. Keep chocolate on standby if you really have to.
For the love of all things sexy and sensual, don’t dive straight into those edits. No matter what state you were in when you opened up the document, I can almost guarantee that you won’t feel so serene any more.
I mean just look at my notes above. Me, the self-styled queen of ‘I don’t’ give a shit, I write for me, not you’.
This work is your baby. The result of weeks, months, maybe even years of slaving over the words. Then, in the space of a week, someone comes along and red-pens it to death.
How very dare they?
Even if you don’t think that’s what’s in your head, it’s probably there on some level. So wait. Have another cup of tea. Scarf the chocolate bar (and buy three more). Watch a film, read a book, go for a walk. Something. Anything but start those edits. Trust me.
Remember: It Ain’t Personal
If you’re in the uber-lucky position of having had your work accepted by an agent or large/small publisher, then your editor will be somebody tasked to make the work better. Unless the world is smaller than I believe it is, it’s unlikely that you’ll know this person.
But the fact that you don’t know this person means that they don’t know you either. This means that all the comments they make, good or bad, are about the work. Not you. Never you.
This means that even if an editor tells you one chapter needs pulling down and rebuilding from the ground up, it’s a comment about the words, not you and your life.
Remember Who They Work For
Editors connected to a publisher get paid to make books as good as they possibly can be. Why? Because good books sell. All publishers want is a good book that they know their readers want. In light of this, doesn’t it make sense to listen to the person they hired to fulfil that goal?
The editor works for the publisher and the publisher wants to make money. But remember, if the publisher is making money from your book then you’re making money from it too. And that can’t be a bad thing, right?
Take Your Time
Deadlines are useful, make no mistake of that. But no one should take the piss either. Nor should you feel the need to rush. It’s painful to change things, cut things around, add things or start again, but the goal here is to make your book even more awesome. Isn’t that worth taking time over?
Nothing good comes from rushing, so be sure to take the same care of these edits that you gave to your own self-edits before submitting. It will only make things easier in the long run. And, if you need more time, just ask. Everyone has a real life lurking in the wings; any editor will understand if you’ve got kids or a full time job or sickness to deal with. Just be honest and upfront about it and realistic with yourself about expectations.
Fight For What You Believe
Sometimes an editor will ask for something and you don’t want to give it. Okay, that might happen a lot (it hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s early days :p). When this happens, you obviously have the right to go back and say ‘I get where you’re coming from, but Character B just wouldn’t act in this way because of his past experiences at Location C while shacked up with Character A’.
Or something like that.
That may be the end of it, it may not. If not, and an editor insists on a change, then you’ve got to think about it with the same distance that you’ve given the entire project so far. Your editor knows what she’s talking about. She’s been doing this for some time. She knows the market. She knows the trends. She wouldn’t say this unless she knew it was for the best. But…! You know your characters, your story, your themes and overarching plots. You understand your characters better than anyone and if something doesn’t add up you’ve got to say so.
Find a middle ground that keeps everyone happy, including yourself.
There. I hope that helps.
I’m only a short way through my edits right now, but I’ll be keeping you posted with how I’m getting on. Meanwhile I’ll have these tips visible at my side at all times, hoping I reach the other end of this process with what remains of my hair.