Friday, May 8, 2009

Editorial Feedback - let me have it!

Tip of the day: Books on CD are my new favorite thing. I have a 30-minute commute each way to work and it makes the time go by SO much faster listening to a good book. PLUS, I think it’s helping me to be a better writer, *hearing* the story aloud. Try it, you might like it!

In 2001, I wrote my first children’s story. I had been thinking about writing for kids for a long time. I’d ordered books off the internet, and been trying to figure out what you did once you had a story done, because that part worried me. I’m not good at doing something without having a plan in place. But I eventually realized, if I wanted to write for kids I needed to, you know, actually WRITE.

So I wrote a chapter book about two kids who made a wish and turned into an animal for a day. I thought, it can be a series! Each book will have them turning into a different animal and it will teach kids about an animal while also being fun and entertaining at the same time.

I showed it to a neighbor, who also wrote for kids and was the one who got me excited to actually start writing, and she had some concerns and suggestions. I’m pretty sure I was crushed, even though she was very kind about it all. I think I put the thing in a drawer, pulled it out a few years later to look at again, and put it right back in.

I used to be so afraid of feedback on my stories. I would wait, holding my breath, for comments to come in from my critique partners. Please like it, I’d think. PLEASE! Ha!!!

My how things have changed. Now, I crave feedback. I want my critique buddies, my agent, and my editor to mark up that manuscript and help me see the weaknesses. More than anything, help me to make the book the best it can be, PLEASE!!! I have seen brutal reviews. I have seen 1-star ratings on goodreads and comments that make me want to cry. In my mind, those are ten times worse than any editorial suggestions I might get to make my story better.

My editor has told me a couple of times how much he likes working with me. I believe it’s because I take his suggestions, I listen to them, I think about them, and I do what he asks me to do. Which makes me wonder, are there many authors who don’t listen? Who argue and don’t think believe the editor is correct?

Granted, my editor has never asked me to take my story in a totally different direction. And he asks lots of questions, to get me thinking, rather than saying outright – it should be like this. So maybe that’s why we haven’t had any conflict with the three books we’ve worked on together. For the most part, though, I take his suggestions to heart, wanting to make the book as good as it can be and knowing I can’t do that alone.

So many writers seem afraid of the editorial process – of working on a manuscript with an editor, and having to make changes. I say, don’t be afraid! Be open to the possibility that your manuscript can be better. A lot better!

I don’t know. Do you think my experience – a great working relationship with my editor - is the exception rather than a rule? Do you think there are lots of authors who dig their heels in hard when asked to revise something, and then resent their editor for asking?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


DeenaML said...

I can't imagine the authors who got as far as selling a book and can't handle the editorial feedback either! I mean, they must've been able to right a hot book on their first try to not have gotten any suggestions and learned how to deal with them along the way!

Kate Fall said...

I know I think like Deena does. I'm looking forward to the day I get to work with an editor on one of my novels. Wow, what a learning experience that will be. (Not that I think it will be totally painless.)

Anonymous said...

I always joke that this is what we most want to hear when we give someone a ms.:

1. Perfect! I love it! This will be a bestselling classic! No more work necessary!

But we only want to hear that if it's honest and true, and since it's unlikely we've written something perfect, the second-best feedback (and the best feedback we can realistically hope for) is constructive criticism.

I welcome feedback; I want to make the book as good as it can be.

Kristina Springer said...

I like feedback too! It's stunning the amount of things I miss no matter how many times I go through the book.

Now line edits...they freaked me out. Mostly because of all the weird symbols. But I'm sure once I'm done publishing like my tenth book (crossing fingers) it'll all look completely normal to me.