I think it was in Plato’s Republic where he said the best person to be in power was the person who didn’t want to be? Writing a book is a bit like that. The people who make good writers, the ones who write with instinct and heart and certainty, who forge ahead through doubts and make sure the damn thing is written…well, they’re probably the least likely to respond well to edits.
Our job is literally to get feedback on this thing we put pieces of our soul into. And then we take that constructive criticism, and put more soul. And then we send it out into the world, where people can either tell us it made a difference to their day, or add us to lists on Goodreads entitled ‘This Author Must Die.’ (Yeah, apparently a thing – don’t people just suck?)
Every author knows the edits pain – it’ll pop up on Twitter ‘Disappearing into edit mode’ ‘Dealing with these edits’, ‘Preparing myself for edits.’
I think edits are great. It’s a wonderful thing to be given feedback from someone who not only knows good stories, but knows how to sell them. Taking out a character, changing a name, adapting the structure, these things are not always about good writing, but are about making something sell, making it fit the market, and genre and exceed expectations. And I am so grateful for that chance to receive that insider knowledge.
But receiving edits can be fraught, and full of emotion.
So I present to you, 10 thoughts authors have when dealing with edits:
- Yes! Yes! I KNEW THAT! I freaking knew I should have gotten rid of that dog, he must be like a hundred years old by the end of the story.
- These are going to make the book AMAZING. How AWESOME is this story going to be?!
- Ugh, why am I such an idiot who needed this many edits. I must be so awful.
- This is going to take forever. Where is the chocolate?
- But…but I LOVE that character/scene/paragraph. I know it adds absolutely nothing to the story but I LOVE IT. Goodbye, sweet darling. I loved you.
- Nope. Nope. In the name of artistic integrity, I am NOT adding that scene.
- …Oh crap, I really need to add that scene.
- Wait, I said my character was 8 years old in 1996, but if he was driving, and his mother…did his mother have him aged 11? How did I do this?
- I am THE WORST. Why did I think I could do this?
- DONE. YES! Please, please, PLEASE, let there not be another round of edits. I can’t even BE IN THE SAME ROOM as this manuscript anymore.
And these aren’t even the line edits, where you will spend ten minutes wondering if something is meant to be hyphenated and end up staring into space all ‘WUT R WORDZ?’
Editing is a necessary part of the craft, and I would encourage you to engage in them fully, take on criticism, and acknowledge your moments of resistance. Is that intuition, loss or ego talking? Sometimes I don’t want to give up things just because they’re mine and I’m stubborn. Sometimes, a suggestion sparks a hundred more and I can’t wait to get fixing.
And sometimes, when you should be diving into your edits, you write a blog post about it instead.