6 thoughts on “Authors, Tell Me How Much Editing Hurts #amwriting #amediting #help

  1. I think it takes about 4-5 hard experiences before you can look at a returned MS as an opportunity to clarify and deepen your story & your style instead of experiencing a personal assault. Your first choice is to go on learning or give up. No one can make that choice for you.
    The first edit is like a first forced confession under torture. You already feel like you’ve exposed yourself thoroughly in your writing, got brave enough to show a skilled reader, but now your first skilled reader identifies sins and faults you thought you’d hidden from the world, or that you didn’t know existed. It hurts like falling off a motorcycle or horse or bike after you thought you had a handle on this new skill, and it takes off several layers of skin. It hurts like a new mother being told she has an ugly baby.
    My first devastating experience was sharing a mythic fantasy with a writing professor, who proceeded to heap all distain for all genre at all time on my writing and crit my involvement with it as a dirty, nasty thing.
    Now, assuming you had a good editor/critique but the result felt harsh:
    To get over it, turn your back for a day or two. Block the grief and do other things. Then come back to it as just a piece of work. Accept the grammatical and typographic corrections, unless the editor guessed wrong in correcting. Now, dissect the kinds of comments so you have categories of things to learn. First look at what the editor got wrong about certain sentences. Look for related patterns in your writing, and go fix those sentence structures as a set of exercises.
    Now look at what the editor got *wrong* in understanding the story. Compare that to suggestions for overall fixes. This is story logic. It just means that you haven’t told all the story you have to tell, in ways that readers ‘get’ it. That story’s still there, Just start clarifying for the next reader.
    But above all, forget about that editor as a person, or as your target reader. Don’t dwell on the relationship. Just look at the trail provided to help you clarify your sentences and your story for the next readers. You have to do that if you made the first choice to keep learning instead of giving up.
    Because you will continue to receive hard criticism every time you share your writing. If you aren’t yet prepared to revise based on criticism, wait a while — and write a lot more — before sharing.

    1. This is all great, Annie! Especially your description of the horrible feelings of it all. It really does hurt, especially the first few times, but, really, it hurts some every time. Thanks for giving this so much thought and being so eloquent!

  2. Aw, Leta, i feel your pain! Literally. It’s like you have a beautiful child, and you take them out to meet the world one day and to your shock, someone says your beautiful baby is ugly.

    At least, that’s what it feels like, at first. But that’s not what they’re really saying. They’re saying that your baby needs her little face washed, her hair combed, and perhaps dressed in some prettier clothes. She’s still your beautiful baby, but she just needs “spiffed-up” a bit.

    It’s a shock. I had some online writing experience and had always done my own editing. I flattered myself I was pretty good at it, so when I turned in my manuscript to my publisher, I was confident it was relatively “clean” and wouldn’t need much work. Boy, was I ever in for a-learnin’. When it was given back to me, it looked like it had been attacked by an army of red worms.

    It was tough, I ain’t gonna lie to you. As a writer – especially a new writer – you’re in love with your own work. And that’s a good thing, because you need that passion to make your words come alive. But that makes it hard when someone points to your favorite paragraph and says it needs to go.

    But I promise you, it does get a little easier with experience. You’ll learn the mistakes your editor looks for and you won’t make them while you’re composing your work in the future, and you’ll learn not to see it in a personal fashion.

  3. I think it helps to separate your idea from your expression. There is a core, the thing you were writing ABOUT, the meaning of it. You have to remain true to that. If a knowledgeable reader isn’t getting the thing that’s so awesome in your head, it means your expression is not living up to your idea. To me, that makes it easier to keep working until the core shines through.

  4. I’m on my ninth book and the edits don’t get any easier. I’ve grown as a writer. I’ve learned new techniques, what to do, what not to do. What works, what doesn’t. I’ve learned that things I’ve grown up saying that I thought everyone said don’t make sense to the majority of people when I put them in my book. And still, the edits NEVER get any easier. It’s like someone telling you that your child was born with a big nose and you need to fix it for the kid to be cute. It’s just hard.

  5. I remember my very first editing group where my story was up on the block. I thought I was prepared. I knew it needed work. I knew there were problems with it. I wanted to see all the red marks and I was prepared for whatever they threw at me.

    And then I saw the pages covered in pen marks. I was not prepared.

    It was a rough first time, not helped by my hanging onto every negative bit they’d written and leaving with the incorrect notion that all three of them completely hated it. I was a lot younger than I was now and I’ve grown a lot as a writer since then. And because of that experience.

    It still hurts to get those comments back, but it’s a different sort of hurt now. The editing process is, in a lot of ways, what drives me to do better with every draft. I’ve stopped thinking of it as what I’ve done wrong and started thinking of it instead of what needs to be fixed and improved to make it better. Sometimes I still have to take ten or fifteen minutes to feel awful about my writing, but after that I get back to work to make it better.

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