This article is one in a series on finding and working with a freelance editor. Part 1 details the types of edits available for novels, part 2 is where to find an editor, part 3 is things to consider when deciding on who you want to work with, part 4 is knowing when you're ready to start editing, and this is the final post, part 5.
You did it! You finished a book and you researched editors and you’ve sent your baby off to be critiqued by a professional and oh no was that the worst decision ever?!?!
Deep breath :) It was a great decision and a necessary step toward getting your book published.
Necessary though it may be…the editorial feedback will incite emotions. Maybe it breaks your heart, or maybe it is exactly what you were hoping for. It could be devastating or enlightening. How the editor’s comments and suggestions feel to you depend on many things – how the feedback is framed, how you accept constructive criticism in general, how personally or not you feel about something you created, your understanding of and belief in the editing process, and so much more.
When you get your feedback from an editor – or anyone, really; this pertains to betas and critique partners and agents and anyone else you’ve asked for opinions – read through it, and if it makes you feel anxious or defensive or hurt or anything negative, just walk away. Give yourself some distance from the MS and this other person’s response to it. Take some time to vent to an author-friend if it might help. When you come back to read the feedback again, try to not take anything you consider negative as a personal attack and keep in mind that this is only one person’s opinion.
Think of your book like a recipe. You'd probably want someone to tell you that you added a cup of baking powder to your cookies instead of just a teaspoon, right? Or if you’ve offered your friend who hates raisins an oatmeal raisin cookie, she probably isn’t going to like it. Just because you created these cookies doesn’t mean that mistaken measurements or personal tastes make you a bad cook or a less-than person. You are not the thing that you created.
You are a wonderful, beautiful, valid person regardless of how you write (or cook).
Also, know that all the examples I offer in this post are ones I’ve seen several times. So if you’re reading this and thinking, “She’s talking about me,” even if I am, you’re definitely not the only one!
I’ve worked with authors who love that I give them detailed critiques about how to improve their stories and what is lacking structurally, and I’ve worked with authors who completely shut down and don’t know what to do next. Both are valid responses, as is every other response along that spectrum. However you feel about feedback is how you feel. And there’s always a way forward.
Comparison can be debilitating and I hope you’re able to learn to avoid it. Please don’t compare yourself to other authors. Everyone has a different writing journey, different backgrounds and experiences, different networks of people and knowledge to support them. And please please please with whipped cream and a cherry on top don’t compare yourself to authors who have five or ten or twenty books published. They’ve been doing this for years. You wouldn’t walk into a new job on Monday morning in a new role you’ve never performed and assume you should be just as savvy about this company as the CEO, right? It’s the same with writing fiction. This is a new job you must learn even though you’ve been writing and reading since elementary school.
That’s all the philosophical and emotional and ephemeral stuff. Now let’s get into the practical techniques of reading, acknowledging and accepting feedback.
So you’ve done the first read of your editorial letter, you’ve called your bestie to cry or rage, and now it’s time to hitch up your pants and get to work. Let’s do it!
Hopefully you have an editor who is telling you what they love about your story as well as where they see opportunities for improvement. Bask in the positives and be realistic about the opportunities. Often editors will point out something that isn’t working for them and explain why it doesn’t work, but leave the actual changes up to the author. They may even offer a few examples of how the revised section might develop to give you some ideas or different perspectives. If you agree, that’s awesome! Go ahead and make those revisions. If you don’t understand what the editor is asking for, then contact them to get clarity. And if you disagree with their suggestions or their reasoning, you don’t have to make the change!
You’re an indie author, which means you are not obligated to take a single revision from your editor. (If you're traditionally published, there are more rules.)
I don’t recommend going into the editing relationship with that as your banner, but it’s the truth nonetheless.
Editors are here to guide you, but we don’t know everything, we can’t fix everything, story is highly subjective, and these characters belong to you. You make the final call on the revisions in your book.
Once you do start to revise, I recommend doing it in a couple different rounds that go from wide and overarching story aspects like character arc or goal (anything included in my Six Foundational Elements) to narrow and focused like repetition in the writing or lack of detail.
Revisions take as long as revisions take. I’ve known authors who can plow through a developmental edit in a week and others who take three months. Again, writing is no place for comparison. You just do the work that is required is improve your story. While you're doing that, you're learning and growing as an author with every revision and every new book.
And because I’m me – and you should be expecting this if you’ve read this whole series – once you’ve finished your revisions, it’s time to celebrate! So break out that champagne and toast yourself to getting one step closer to publication.
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