Abort/Revise/Fail?

Yes, it’s me, still obsessing about revisions.  I got two books at once from the editors, which is kinda handy ’cause I can keep in the right frame of mind.  Except that I turned book 1 back over to them, with some celebration–and now find that I need to do one of those puny but pervasive changes we all love so much!  Maybe the copyeditor can handle it. . .

There was a great poet who once claimed to have spent all day on a poem.  In the morning he added a comma.  In the afternoon, he took it back out.  That’s really the trouble–it’s so easy to second-guess the changes.  Am I still true to my muse if I add this comma? If the editor has asked for the comma, does that make it any less valid?  What if I don’t agree about the comma, should I fight it?

It’s just a damn comma!  I get the whole “my-book-is-my-baby” thing, I do.  But at some point, baby’s got to grow up and learn some manners.  Editors are not always right about everything–but they are trained, experienced readers.  Doing their job.  Which is to make the book the best it can be.  If this is not true of your editor, you need to leave.

OR!  you need to consider the possibility that you’re not ready to be edited.  ’cause there is a mental leap involved with accepting that your work needs someone else’s attention to be prepared for presentation to the public.  We talk a lot to beginning writers about how to make sure the *work* is ready to send out–as ready as the author can make it.  But it occurs to me that we also need to talk to them about how to prepare themselves for the process.

This is the part where you may need to kill your darlings.  This is the part where you need to be far enough from the work to see that yes, that line might be interpreted in exactly contrary to your intentions.  This is the part where you hear what the editor is saying and be prepared to take action on it.  This is the part where you start to let go of your work so that it can be fully embraced by others.

Are there times you need to stand your ground and fight for something?  Sure.  But they are probably fewer than you think, and you need to be sure that what you fight for is vital to the work.  Even then, you might look for a compromise first, rather than a battle.  For those who are not ready to be edited, there are now a million ways to get your book out there without an editor’s eye.  But even many successful indie authors suggest hiring an editor of your own.

About E. C. Ambrose

I spend as much time in my office as I possibly can--thinking up terrible things to do to people who don't exist.
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