Just Write Cat

One Writer, One Journey

Letting Go… February 2, 2010

Filed under: Baby Steps, Baby Steps,Writing,You Can't Do It Alone — justwritecat @ 2:46 am
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My manuscript will be undergoing a rather significant revision over the next few weeks.  Based on comments received by an agent (an agent who is willing to reread/reconsider my work upon revision), I decided to work with a developmental editor.  I did some research – and after hearing about him via a tweet by an agent – decided to see if Alan Rinzler would be open to working on my manuscript.  He read my work, sent me an email with his initial thoughts and estimated fee, and offered to field any questions/concerns via a phone call.  We talked, and then decided to move forward with the developmental editing. 

Let me pause to explain that developmental editing is not the same thing as copy editing.  A developmental editor offers something substantially different  – he or she considers the totality of your work.  Plot, characterization, pacing, dialog, subplots, marketability – so if you are considering working with such an editor, be ready to possibly make significant changes to specific aspects of your novel.  And that is what this blog is about.  The willingness to make those changes.  For more on this, please visit Alan’s site here: http://www.alanrinzler.com/home.html 

I’m a control person.  Maybe not a freak, but certainly someone who would rather be in control of my life than not.  At least to the degree than I can have any control over my life!  I’m also accustomed to working on projects alone.  Yes, I’ve experienced the challenges and benefits of teamwork, but usually everyone has their own ‘mini-project’ to work on and then we all come together and viola – the whole thing is done.  Yeah, working with an editor isn’t like that.  You do your part, he does his – and then the real work begins.  This is just the start of the process for me, so some of this may change, but…from what I gather, some back and forth is a necessary part of the experience. 

And while all the changes made are, ultimately, up to me (read, in my control) – if a better book is my goal (it is), an openness to his input and a willingness to make changes is essential.  And that’s hard.  Not because his suggestions aren’t good/great/so fantastic I wish I’d thought of it – but because sometimes you want to hold on to those ideas or to those chapters or to the images you have in your head of your characters.   It’s your story – and while you may beg for input on how to tell it better, it’s hard to make some of those changes.  But, not impossible.

And that’s where I am.  Deciding which changes to make, and of those I want to make – the best way to do so.  When Alan sent me the marked up manuscript, he suggested I read his comments/changes SLOWLY, and more than once.  And then I should count to ten, read them again – and then wait ten days to set up our phone consult.  Wise man, experienced man.  He certainly knows writers – or at least, this one who admitted during our first phone call patience was an elusive virtue for me.  He must also have picked up on other of my lesser qualities – hot-headedness for one.  My first read through of his comments, I misunderstood some of his suggestions.  Another read  – and several tears – later, I realized some of his suggestions were not what I first thought and were, in reality, quite doable.  So if you work with a developmental editor – don’t take any comments personally, don’t jump to any conclusions.  Take a deep breath, read any suggestions slowly and with focus – then cry if you still feel inclined (or yell, or whatever you do to work through your frustration).  And then, get to work.  Chances are, the suggested changes will make your book better – but it’s up to you to accept the challenge.

Hint:  It’s easier if you just…let go.

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2 Responses to “Letting Go…”

  1. vvdenman Says:

    Appreciate this blog. Being a new writer, I didn’t know the difference between a developmental editor and a copy editor. I’m glad to understand now. Also, I can relate to the mix of feelings following a critique. It all seems better after a few days.

  2. Bryan Sabol Says:

    I think if I were in your shoes, Catherine, the critical thing would be to have the right chemistry with your editor. It sounds like you’ve found someone who can help guide you and provide critical suggestions that we (as newbie writers) might not consider.
    Maybe another way to look at this is a learning opportunity. Remember that even if your ms was accepted as-is by an agent, it’s virtually guaranteed to have revisions during the next stage, when a publishing house assigns an editor to it.
    So what you’re doing here is getting a jump-start: I wouldn’t look at it as “someone else is making me change my story;” rather it’s about getting the eyes of an experienced story developer to guide you on how to strengthen the book. And that means you have a fantastic chance to learn new techniques — add to that writer’s arsenal of tools, so to speak.
    Not to mention, at the end of the day, you have an agent who sounds like they’d take a second, serious, look at your edited story.
    Just one word for that: “Huzzah!”


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