Working through edits and comments... This can be the most daunting of tasks, whether the edits come from your beta or critique partner or your editor, they need to be taken down and
I’ve shared my work with beta’s and critique partners in the past, I’ve learned all about “Track Changes” and “Comment Bubbles” but nothing quite get’s you ready for a manuscript fresh from your editor.
Recently, I got a manuscript back from my editor. It had 432 comment bubbles and over 1400 additions and deletions in it. To say it was marked up in red is an understatement, it looked like it had been swallowed whole and what resulted was something that mildly resembled my manuscript. My jaw hit the floor, tears stung my eyes, and I think I even started to hyperventilate. Even though I knew that seeing my novel in print form was what I always wanted, I suddenly was having second thoughts. Serious second thoughts. I worried that I might have made a huge mistake, that my editor and my publisher had made a huge mistake and that I was having a terrible dream because I couldn’t even begin to fathom how to wade through all the comments and fix the problems pointed out.
I scoffed at myself for ever thinking my manuscript was polished. But don’t get me wrong, it was polished, to the best of my abilities, with the help of beta’s and critique partners. So after taking a step back, deep breathes and calming music (and one frantic phone call to Mr. Olive where I had him reassure me that I wasn’t a hack and that I really could write, and work through edits) I dove in.
Having gone through—what I know call as mild—edits before I knew where to start, and the friendly e-mail from my editor confirmed my initial thoughts. Start from the beginning, read all the comments—all 432 of them—and let what they say stew for a day or two. This is how I always start, whether it was the measly 100 comments (or less) I’ve gotten from others, or the tidal wave of hundreds from my editor. Read through them, let them sit and then figure out where to begin.
In my experience, and because I like to take the slightly easier path, I always work through the comments and changes that I have no problems with. The easy ones. The simple ones like, “add in a line here about emotions, or “trim this line down because it’s too wordy.”
I make notes, skip over the tough one or the ones that I’m not sure quite how to work into the manuscript, and focus on one simple task. I take frequent breaks, when my mind begins to grow fuzzy, my vision starts to go cross-eyed, or when that overwhelming feeling tugs at my stomach I save the file, and take a step back.
When I’ve worked through the easy ones, I focus on the harder ones, the “this scene isn’t working, cut and add in a new one...” or something to that effect.
But you’ll always come to a few suggested revisions that just don’t sit well in your stomach. You read the comment over and over, note the suggested change that’s been inserted to give you an idea how it should look, but still, it’s just not working for you. You might feel like it takes away from your characters voice, the one you’ve spent months and months honing, it might change the dynamic of your characters current situation, whatever the case, this is when you need to speak up.
When I read over the comments first off, I had a few concerns I caught right away and I did the only thing you can do in this situation. Talk to your editor or go with your gut, if you’re working just with beta’s and critique partners. I promptly made a list of my concerns, and wrote out reasons for my concerns. This is important, just as your editor does for you, you need to give reasons why something isn’t working. When I felt confident with my drafted letter I took a deep breath and sent it out.
When people take the time to read your work, edit it and give their opinions, they (should) have your best interests in mind, but remember they don’t know you, or your novel like you do. So chances are, when you talk it through, you’ll reach a common ground as I did with my editor about a few things that worried me.
With those out of the way, I kept on sifting through the comments, making changes and finally after two weeks I was done. But not entirely.
Sure I’d worked through the manuscript, did everything I was supposed to, but in no way am I ready to send it off. I let the manuscript sit for another day or two and focused on something else entirely before going back in.
Now, what you need to do is read through the entire manuscript, start to finish and make sure you didn’t miss anything. With that many comments, a manuscript now marked in red (and blue because of track changes) you are bound to miss something.
This is what I’m doing now, making sure I’m not missing anything, making sure I’ve done the best of my ability, and that I’m happy with the way things turned out.
They say that writing a novel is the easy part, I agree, it’s the editing and revising that really sets people apart. If you can’t focus on making your novel better, accepting criticism and the help of others, your novel will never shine (at least that my opinion)
So, remember comments and changes aren’t there to hurt your feelings or make you think you are a crappy writer, they are there to prove to you that someone else is willing to take the time to help you, and wants you to succeed just as much as you do, they want to make your novel better!
It took me a day or two to figure that out, at first I thought my editor was nuts, but now that I’ve worked through the manuscript, accepted her help I can really see how much my writing skills have already improved. This is something that is priceless, every novel I write in the future will be that much better because I’ve learned so much.
Take it slow, take a breath and work your way through! Happy Editing!