In January, I hired a developmental editor, Tessa Shapcott, to help me with my first book, A Man of Character. Generally speaking, I (and others) had been happy with the book, but I knew that to “do it right” as an indie publisher, I needed an editor’s opinion.
She gave me one. She gave me several. She gave me nearly four pages’ worth of suggestions. And they were spot on. Tessa is fabulous, people. But all those pages of suggestions meant I needed to restructure my book – move some elements to the front, delete others, add scenes, pay attention to emotional development.
I won’t lie. I wanted to bury my head in the sand. I even asked Tessa if she felt the book were worth salvaging (luckily for me, she most emphatically said YES).
So instead pulling my standard ostrich move, I got to work. It took me longer than I wanted (pesky Other Life responsibilities, plus my standard Time Managing Idiocy), but I finished that sucker, read through it again several times, made more corrections, and sent it off to Tessa for a second read-through.
Green light. WOO HOO! She liked it, felt the revisions worked well, and had just a few minor suggestions. I know there’s additional work to do after those revisions, since the next step is a line edit, but still, I was feeling on top of the world.
Last night, I was in the hot seat for my beloved critique group. A Man of Character in its newly revised form was up for review. And the critiquers did exactly what they were supposed to do, exactly what I want them to do: they critiqued it, meaning they found favor and fault in it. Lots of fault, depending on whom you asked.
I know that I have a long way to go in developing the thick skin writers need. I know that writing is rewriting. Writing is revision. And being a relative newbie to the fiction writing world, I have a lot to learn. In my head, I know all of that, accept all of that. In my head, I want to learn, learn, learn, to find out what works and what doesn’t, to grow and become better.
In my heart, I feel pain when someone challenges my baby, even when the challenges are justified, and would only lead to improving the book. In my heart (and head), I also know now it’s my turn to critique the critiques, by taking what I like and leaving the rest. And I will. I will. Just not today. Today, I’m not touching it.
It’s a roller coaster, this writing thing. It’s the highest of highs when you feel you’ve nailed that scene or that dialogue, when a beta reader tells you she loves the story, when you get positive feedback from fellow writers.
And it’s the lowest of lows, the days where you stare at the words and think they’re crap, when you get rejection after rejection from agents, when you open up your document returned to you from a critiquer and all you see are pages full of comments.
Some days I want to get off. Some days I want to ride forever.
They tell you your writing is not you. Don’t take it personally.
Does that ability come easier the longer one pursues this profession? I hope so.
In the meantime, I’m taking today to work on reading and reviewing other people’s writing. But I’ll be back at A Man of Character tomorrow. Because, warts and all, my baby is entering the world on May 26, 2015. And I’m excited.
How do you deal with the ups and downs?