“So this is what it’s like for my editing clients,” I thought as I stared at the 18 pages of notes from my editor. A little less than two of those pages summarized the “positives” of my book.
But we authors don’t send our manuscripts to editors to receive a document of praise in return. Nope, the editing process is self-inflicted torture that — if we can live through it — somehow results in increased determination, strength, and (hopefully) storytelling.
Handing over our literary babies to be scrutinized is such a strange a mixture of denial and harsh awareness. We like to think our manuscripts are perfect. We can’t bear to receive a single harsh comment. And yet, somehow we know it’s probably lightyears away from perfection and it will never get there without those harsh comments.
I’ll admit, as I waited two weeks to get A Time to Die back from one of the best editors in the industry, I’d secretly hoped she’d say, “There’s really not much work to do. Your writing, story, and characters are pretty close to perfect.” And yet, at the same time, I would have been furious to receive that response.
Because I know it’s not perfect.
Even after I spend the next month rewriting what I deem needs rewriting, it still won’t be perfect. It will never be perfect because I’m not God. But editors can help us writers get it pretty darn close to perfect…as long as we’re willing to bare our backs to the editorial whip.
Right now I sound pretty strong, don’t I? Like I eat red pens for breakfast. Well, let me set you straight.
Before I even opened the document of editorial comments, I told myself, “Alright, Nadine. You’re not going to like this. No amount of praise is going to make this easy.” And I dedicated the next two days to an emotional meltdown.
I didn’t edit. I didn’t write. I didn’t read. Instead, I went on a road trip to a concert with my little sister where I’d be forced to snack on chocolate and not think about my book.
Two days wasn’t enough, but it was all the time I had for a meltdown. It’s now been five days and I’m slowly climbing back onto the office chair. I brainstorm until I feel myself despairing and then I switch to something else. The pattern isn’t flawless, but it’s keeping me sane and determined.
During this process, I’ve thought a lot about my editing clients. Often times I feel helpless sending back a document of edits because I know, no matter how much I love a client’s story and gush about the characters, many of my words will hurt. Even if I included a manual on How to Cope with Post-Edit Blues, it’s still up to the author to push through.
The best I can do is to blog and say, “I’ve been there! I’ve been in your shoes! I’m there right now and I don’t like it one bit. But I’m on your side, even as I stain your hard-worked pages with red. I’m on your side.”
I’m on your side, friends. We are a team — writers and editors — to help refine these nuggets of gold we slip onto bookshelves. So push through. Cry. Eat that chocolate. Let your mom tell you, “Your story is still great, honey,” (and believe her.) But never quit.
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [*cough* writing *cough*] so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes through it has been tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Have you ever had your manuscript edited? If so, share a little about your reaction and editing process. If not, do you plan to get it edited someday?