As an editor, part of my job is to send authors feedback on their novels and let them know what I think is working well, and what perhaps needs a little more work. As a writer now too, I’ve also experienced this from the other side and I wanted to do a quick post about it. Receiving edits on your book can be a very strange feeling – after all, this is something you’ve probably spent months labouring over, and you’re understandably nervous to see what someone else in the publishing industry thinks of it. It’s really wonderful hearing that your editor likes your book – one of the best feelings – and it can be worrying hearing about the parts that might need to change, but it doesn’t all have to be scary. Here are some tips I have for dealing with edits and avoiding hitting the panic button:
1. Take the time to process them. I am guilty of often having really knee-jerk, almost panicked reactions to things, and that includes edits, and my initial reaction is always to only see the negative and start worrying about how on earth I’m going to make the changes needed. I always want to reply straight away and sort things out as quickly as possible, but as an editor I advise my authors to do the opposite (I’m pretty bad at taking my own advice!) and to instead take a little time to just think over the notes, maybe even sleep on it, and let them percolate in your mind a bit so that you can avoid having an instinctive, emotional response. Remember that your editor will have the same goal as you – to make the book the very best it can be and ensure it resonates with readers and sells lots of copies! Their edits will only be designed to help you make your manuscript even tighter, and they’re a useful pair of fresh eyes, as by the editing stage you as the author will already have spent so long poring over the manuscript that it will be harder to see where the pace is lagging or where things need a little more clarity.
2. Always respond politely. Even if you don’t agree with something that’s been suggested, try not to get upset or angry – the comments should all be about your manuscript rather than you as a person and the best working relationships are always polite and kind. Occasionally, you might feel as though your editor is completely wrong, but even if that’s the case, they’re still spending their time working on your book and ultimately they want you to succeed! Books are so subjective, and it’s natural that you might not always agree with everything, but your editor will usually have good experience in the industry and be taking into account important things which you may not have thought of such as other books in the market, the opinion of retailers, and feedback they’ve had on similar types of books. If you feel like you need to let off steam after receiving edits, talk things through with a friend, go out for a run – do something distracting and allow yourself to feel the upset then let it move past you before you sit down to email back! I really value the relationships I have with both my list of authors and my own agent and editor – we’re all on the same side.
3. Take notice of the positives. I often completely gloss over any positives that people say about my writing and focus only on the negative, and I think a lot of people do this too. It’s very unlikely that your editor will hate your whole book and what’s much more likely is that they really believe in you and love your writing, and are pushing you on a couple of plot points or raising questions over characters in order to ensure your book is 100% brilliant. I always try to leave positive notes in the margins when I’m editing, calling out lines I love or really breath-taking moments, and my hope is that the author will notice these as well as the more constructive comments. Praise is praise, and you deserve it – don’t dismiss it!
4. Ask questions. If there’s anything your editor has said which you feel doesn’t make sense or you’re not sure about – just ask! It could be that something hasn’t been explained quite well enough, or that you’re both reading the same lines but interpreting them differently, and no good editor will ever mind an author asking for more clarity. I always tell my authors that they can call me to discuss edits too, as sometimes a phone chat can help (or even face to face if its easy). Never feel stupid for asking questions – the book by that point is quite a collaborative process so it can be super useful to discuss editorial changes before making them, and I actually love talking about books with my writers. You never know when a new and exciting idea might spark.
5. Keep it in perspective. It can be really overwhelming receiving editorial feedback sometimes, but it’s also hugely exciting – I feel privileged to get feedback from my agent and editor on my work, and in reality there are probably lots of authors who would love to have an editor. To be at the stage where you are being edited is wonderful – so take the time to reflect on that and give yourself a pat on the back for getting as far as you have! If it all feels overwhelming, remind yourself of all the other things you no doubt have going on in your life. Writing and the publishing industry can be amazing, but they’re only a small part of a very wide world.
Thank you for visiting my blog! Just a reminder too that if you’re an unpublished or self published writer, entries open this Thursday (1st Feb) for the First Novel Prize which I’m helping to judge. So if you are sitting on a manuscript, now could be the weekend to polish it up!