Edits are hard *grumblegrumble*
So, okay. One thing writers don’t talk a lot about is The Dread Editing Letter.
It’s the letter that you get from your editor once your manuscript has been signed with a publisher and turned over to the publisher and your lead editor to begin the process of making it into A Book. This is the letter where the editor says “Okay, so I loved this. And it was great. And I also loved this. BUT… THIS needs to change/be cut out/be punched up/be set on fire” or whatever it is that they saw that you, as the author, need to fix in order to make the manuscript you gave them into a fantastic book.
And sometimes these letters are easy. Full of praise with a few small suggestions for fixes. Or the suggested fix is just so good and so obvious that you love it immediately and wonder why you didn’t think of it first, and dive into it feet first. And sometimes it’s filled with things that make you think Oh god no absolutely not and you get on the phone with the editor and talk it out, and either one or the other of you has their mind changed.
And then you get the kind of letter that I got on the third book of The Accidental Turn series, which is… hard to take.
Not because I don’t agree with the changes my editor wants. But because I do.
I absolutely agree.
But I have no earthly idea whatsoever how to take those comments and turn them into actionable plans of rewriting.
I mean, what she’s asking me for,I had been trying to do all along. And to hear that I wasn’t successful is like a knife in the throat. But the hand holding the knife handle wasn’t my editor’s - it was mine. Because I didn’t get it right. I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s my fault.
And that is the worst feeling in the world. It’s compounded by everyone around me saying “I know it’s hard, but you’ll figure it out. You always do.” It makes me feel like even more of a failure because if I could have figured it out, I would have done it that way the first time.
I am, as Anne would say, in the absolute depths of despair over this edit.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t often get this way with books. I always know when a book isn’t quite right yet (and I knew this one wasn’t right, I just didn’t know it was so wrong), so usually I nod along with most of an Editing Letter, appreciate the insight over what bits need the work so I know where to aim my focus, and get on with it.
But this one has me spinning my wheels because everything I come up with boils back down to exactly what I’ve already put on the page. I don’t know how to do what my editor wants.
I don’t know.
So, for now, I am doing the things I can do.
I made a list of actionable requests, with little check boxes.”Change the tense”, check. “Add the characters names to the top of POV shift sections”, check. That feels like accomplishing something, even if I haven’t actually implemented the changes yet.
I spent the weekend rewriting the plot outline, with the possible changes, and sent it to the editor for her feedback. I’m scheduling a Skype call to try to get more specific, targeted feedback. (”I think you should do X Y and Z” is good, but what I need at this point is “In which part? With which scene? Where? And how?”) My fear with this is that I’ll totally rewrite huge sections and hand it in, only to have her say: “That’s not what I meant.”
I want to ensure that what I do is what is wanted.
Today I’m transfering the book chapter by chapter into Scrivener and breaking up the scenes and noting where new scenes might go or which scenes may be cut.
It’s small things, but it makes me feel a little bit more accomplished. A few paces closer to the finish line. Breaking up something like this into bite-sized tasks is helping with the panic. And it’s giving my brain time to percolate.
Hopefully, with this call, and this list, and this outline, and this broken-down scene map, when it comes time to actually sit down to rewrite, it will feel like a breeze.
It’s difficult, and I’m panicking, and I’m floundering, but I will get there. I will get there.
It’s not a magic cure-all.
But I wanted to share with you, with all of you, that writing isn’t all soft summer days, and gently steaming cups of tea, or rich jammy wine on a patio while watching the sunset.
It’s hard, and it’s filled with self-doubt and self-recrimination, and sometimes hurt feelings. Mostly it’s a lot of being mad at yourself for not doing better.
And then sitting down at the keyboard anyway, and doing it. Even if you have to break it into small tasks in order to ever figure out how to understand the shape of the mountain you’re trying to climb.
It’s hard.But you’re clever. You’ll figure it out.