A popular post from March 2010.
By Julie Wright
Many years ago, I met Carole Thayne Warburton. It was her first book signing and she was the author scheduled to sign after me at the bookstore. She seemed shy and nervous, so I stayed a little while longer and chatted with her. She was wonderful and I was glad to get to know her. She told me a little story about her path to publication. She'd spent a long time in the editorial process. Her editor kept sending back her manuscript and saying, "Good, but now we need this changed . . ."
I'm sure my eyes were huge and I felt angry on her behalf. And I asked her, "Weren't you furious having to rewrite that many times?"
Her response has stayed with me and kept me company on many a long night of editing: "I was at first. But every time they sent it back to me, I took it as a challenge to make the manuscript better. And now I know the finished product is as good as it can be."
Carole taught me the most valuable lesson I've ever learned in my writing career. She took it as a challenge to make it better. She didn't sit down and start rocking back and forth while wailing. She stepped up and faced the challenge directly. She may have inadvertently saved me from myself. Because not too long after that, I encountered a very bumpy publishing road.
Without her words echoing in my brain, I would have quit writing. I would have cast aside my pen and declared the venture not worth it. But by her calling it a challenge she had to meet, I recognized that bumpy road for what it was--a challenge. And who turns their back on the opportunity to make their manuscript better?
Certainly not me.
Today I am editing my own book so I can send it off to my agent. I've received edits back from editors I trust and decided to dive in. And already--the manuscript is better. Already the scenes are more clear, motivations are solidified, and characters are nailed firmly in place. It usually takes me a week after getting edits before I can be objective. My natural response is to want to defend my writing. But then I grumble, settle myself into my chair, and start fixing.
And it feels good to fix, to adjust, to clarify--to know that the things I am fixing now will not come back to haunt me in reviews on Goodreads later.
You are not obligated to do everything an editor tells you to do, suggestions remain merely suggestions, and sometimes editors are wrong (I know I am on occasion). There a million right ways to tell a story, and just because an editor gives you one path to follow doesn't mean it's the only path.
But you should take satisfaction in your opportunities to self edit down whichever path you choose, because each thing you fix makes the manuscript that much more worthy for publication. Then you can sit at your book signing, like Carole, and know the book in front of you is as shiny and polished as it can possibly be.