You know that feeling when you have been working on something for forever and think it’s perfect, then another person causally, within seconds of looking at it, takes out their red pen and finds the flaw you never could focus on?
It’s both maddening and exhilarating. On one hand, that’s my baby! On the other hand, how could I have been so blind? Also, now I get the chance to fix it and make it better. But UGGHHHHH that’s going to take a lot of WORK!
So maybe you’ve guessed, but I recently got my first developmental edit back from my editor. Several people warned me that the editing process is demoralizing and frustrating but like a newbie, I thought:
“I’ll be fine! I’ve been writing this book for 5 + years, I’ve had hundreds of people read the first version online, I’ve been beta’d by people in the genre! I’m going to have a great book! Puppies and Rainbows!”
When I first read the memo letter, I was immediately overwhelmed. My editor is someone I found through a friend who has self-published 6 novels already and is working on her 7th. I trust K.T. Lee implicitly and so her recommendation for an editor was immediately taken. I confirmed that the editor worked in my genre and we set a due date for my manuscript.
Before sending it on to the editor, I did my own deep dive back into the book. I started writing the book in 2015 and it was my first ever work of fiction. I knew there were problems and was determined to find and fix as many as possible. I tackled tense issues, flow issues, and was even (I thought) brutal with myself on what should stay and what should go. I cut 2 whole chapters on my own before even sending it to her!
I was doing really good, A+!
Even with all the rework, I admit I was nervous to send it off to someone whose sole purpose was to tear it apart and find all the mistakes. However, I trusted in the process and K.T.’s contention that she had a great relationship with this editor who always made her books better.
So, I started reading the memo letter and the first paragraph is all about how she liked the book and not to freak out about the coming criticism. Which had me immediately in a freak out! You don’t start with a blow softening if the coming blow is minor. Some of the criticism I knew was coming. I’m not the best with grammar and verb tense is hard in a narrative form. But other things were totally unexpected. She recommended some pretty major edits to the book. Deletion of certain characters POVs, extraction of an entire b-subplot, and a partial overhaul of my narrator style.
Apparently, I’m NOT fine! I must suck completely! How did I think I could do this? I’m not a fiction writer. I should just stick to my lane and do this on the side for fun. No one wants to read my tripe. AGGGGRRRRRHHHHHHH!
As a general rule, I try to read criticism once, then put it down for some period of time to digest it. I have always done this with big projects in the hopes that my emotions won’t become engaged and overrule my good sense. So, I read the letter through once, then put it down for a day. The next afternoon, I was ready to actually think about the ideas presented. It should not have surprised me so much, but the second read through of the memo was amazing.
The editor cut right to the chase of certain scenes and provided me with ways of making the plot points more relatable. Less information dump, more action. She also helped me find the places in the middle of the story that dragged on, leaving the reader with a slog, which turns into skimming. Yes, a couple of characters needed to lose their dedicated POV chapter – their perspectives didn’t provide any new information and didn’t move the plot along. It worked when I was writing and posting the story one chapter at a time on a free author’s forum, but in a whole book that someone will read all at once, it was silly.
I’m also going to follow the advice about stripping the B-plot and making it into its own novella. After reading through the whole book with those cut scenes stripped out, it really makes the flow work 1000% better. It’s hard to cut up the baby, but sometimes it’s the only solution.
I guess the moral here is that I could have taken her critiques on my art with a block of vanity-salt and made minimal changes, insisting that I knew better and I was going to tell the story my way. But that really would have been a waste of the money I paid her to do the developmental editing. Also, that’s just egocentric narcissism. We all have a part to play in this world and experts are considered experts for a host of reasons. But mostly because they know more than the rest of us about something specific. I am super excited about the rewrite of the book. It took me about 6 weeks to finish and just this month I sent the new manuscript back to my editor for a more in depth line edit. I really believe that the end result is so much better than what I could have made on my own.
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