Time for a Road to Publication update.
I just turned in my first round of edits for THE ART OF ESCAPING. For most books, the first and possibly second and third rounds revolve around developmental edits (also sometimes called content edits). Developmental edits address global issues with the plot or characters. Even though you may have to tweak an individual tree here or there to address these issues, you’re really looking at the whole forest at this point.
I managed not to turn into a Raging Writer-Beast during my first round, though that has less to do with taking the half-baked advice I’m going to dispense below, and more to do with the fact that my editor’s requests weren’t even close to earth shattering. For the most part, she wanted me to flesh out and boost the presence of a few secondary characters. This is something I was more than happy to do because, in the process of revising the book before the second round of submissions, I cut a lot of secondary character content to address pacing issues. I now felt strong enough as a writer to weave some of that back in without slowing down the plot.
But this got me thinking about how easy it is to slip into Defensive Writer Stance or Woe-Is-Me-Doldrums and close yourself off to solid feedback from editors, agents, critique partners, and beta readers. If you’re not used to having your work critiqued and you’re figuratively clenching your book to your chest like a precious little pet, there’s a good chance you’ll respond to spot-on critique like the stereotypically angsty teen in a Lifetime movie. For example, Shut up, mom! You just don’t get it! You don’t get me at all! Or alternatively, Ugh, I’m the worst, most pathetic person ever. I’m going to go to my room and never come out.
If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to fight these urges to get mad or give up. First, remember that no one offers to represent you, publish you, or be your critique partner because they hate your writing. Generally, they are there because they love and care about your writing and want to help you make it better. Second, if you’re going through someone’s notes about your writing and you feel yourself filling with either rage or despair, STOP. Seriously, stop reading the notes and walk away because if you don’t, every note you read from that point on is going to be colored by what you’re feeling. Go do something to take your mind off edits and then come back and read those notes again when you’re in a better headspace.
Don’t discount feedback until you’ve taken the time to digest it with a clear head (this is especially true if more than one person gave you the same bit of feedback). I’m not saying it’s never okay to dispute or ignore a note from your agent/editor/CP/beta. If you’ve taken the time to think about it and you feel truly confident that your original version works best, you should stick with it. But more likely than not, you’ll take some time to think about the feedback and, like that stereotypical Lifetime movie teen, go Damn, Mom has a point.
But you’re not out of the woods quite yet. That moment when you decide a change has to be made is often the moment the Raging Writer-Beast creeps back in, filling you with self-doubt and leaving you feeling totally overwhelmed and ready to tear your fur…er, hair…out.
Again, take a break. Let your mind wander because, if you do, a plan of attack will sometimes start forming on its own. If you’re one of those writers who NEEDS to be more proactive, try making a list of edits and possibilities for accomplishing them (I know quite a few writers who rely on chunked lists so that they don’t seem as overwhelming). Remember that you wrote a whole book. If you can do that, you can figure out how to fix it.
What are your secrets for keeping the Raging Writer-Beast at bay?