You’ve submitted your manuscript to your editor, and you’re waiting on tenterhooks to hear back. Of course, you want your editor to write back and say how brilliant it is! A masterpiece. But any writer who’s been through this process knows that even if your editor does rave about your work, there is likely to be some feedback that won’t be easy to swallow. That’s their job after all! When the letter finally lands in your inbox, you open it with mixed feelings, excited to hear what they had to say but likely with some degree of dread as well. Herewith a few tips on making the best of that read-through.
You are not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. Want to make yourself feel better? Go online and read about some other writers and how they react to getting their letters. All those books you buy? Those authors have all been exactly where you are now—faced with what probably feels like a daunting amount of feedback and experiencing that same sense of trepidation. This is a good time to remember that revisions are a standard part of the process—and that this phase is likely going to result in a much better final result. Pour yourself a glass of wine; rant a bit to your boyfriend, dog, best friend (not your editor—see below for more on that); and get it out of your system. Then embrace the prospect of diving back in and taking your work to the next level.
Give yourself some time. Though you may be tempted to call your editor immediately to explain exactly why a certain plot thread or character is so essential or to defend your decision to have nine antagonists or subvert the conventions of your genre, give yourself a couple of days to think your editor’s comments through. Only get on the phone once you’ve had a chance to gain a bit of emotional distance and are ready to approach the prospect of revision with an open mind.
Remember that no one is going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. It’s hard to do, but you want to find that sweet spot between being open-minded and trusting your instincts. Any good editor will tell you that this is your story, and few will expect you to take them up on every one of their suggestions. So yes, go into the revision phase with an open mind, but don’t do anything that feels downright wrong to you. If you’re not sure how to handle a fix, get in touch with your editor. There are often many solutions to a problem—your editor may have suggested one, but you may have other ideas about how to address it, and that’s entirely appropriate. This is a collaborative process.
Be glad that you’re getting this feedback now. You still have plenty of time to fix things before this goes out into the big wide world and gets read and reviewed by the masses. In fact, thank goodness you still have a chance to fix the pacing so that it doesn’t lag, to make your heroine more credible, to clarify those confusing bits, and to eliminate those leftovers from earlier drafts that weren’t still supposed to be there. Your editor is actually helping to make you look even better than you thought possible. You might even start to feel as if this is the best thing that ever happened to you.
Come up with a game plan. Don’t try to do everything at once. Ease yourself into the process with some easy fixes. It all depends on the nature of the edits, but some writers like to tackle all the smaller issues first, then work up to the big-picture issues. Others prefer to tackle the big problems, then resolve the line issues. Go out for a walk and get away from the page for a little while. Talk any sticking points over with your editor.
With any luck, with a little time and distance, you’ll actually come to embrace the revision phase when you sit back down with your manuscript.