Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding the editing roller coaster

I have to admit, this post might dip down into unprofessionalism. I'm going to be honest, brutally honest in a way that would probably make me cry. It involves beta readers and editing and the roller coaster of emotions I've been going through since getting a few critiques back.

First I'd like to point out something that bugs me about editing. It has to do with the suggestions and how all writers act all cheerful and grateful for them. I've heard writers say 'I don't have to listen to my editor or the suggestions but I will because it will make the story better." I'm not saying you shouldn't be grateful for the opinions given or you should ignore suggestions.

The point I'm striving for is why should I be cheerful about it all the time?

Hear me out. It's agreed that seeing red ink is cringe-worthy. We all wish we could put our fingers on the keyboard or pen to paper and write gold. We can't so we need to hand out our writing and ask for red ink.I did just that and got all but one critique back (it will get back to me; she had other stories she was reading before mine.) At first glance, I want to cry. My writing can't be that bad, can it? I have step away or else I will start crying and when I go back I feel better, more optimistic about all the red.

Then I start reading and the roller coaster begins. As I come across notes and suggestions I go through a slew of emotions.
  • Confusion. Why are they suggesting that? 
  • Acceptance. Yes, that makes complete sense I cut this part. 
  • Happiness. Squee! They liked what I wrote and gave me a smiley face! 
  • Annoyance. I'm so sick of seeing all these notes, I don't want to read another one as long as I live. This one usually means it's time for a break so I get up and do something else then come back refreshed and at peace with the notes and red.

All of this can happen in any order and hit me quite randomly. I go up and down and around bends. I stalk away or hunker down. I rant to my hubby and other friends who I know will understand. I release the emotions, getting them out so I can go back to editing with a level head.

I don't believe as a writer I should be expected to be happy and cheerful about edits all the time. I think I have a right to sigh in annoyance or head desk. I don't know if I'll accept every suggestion or edit but I do know I'll feel them. I'll get on the roller coaster and throw my hands in the air for all the twists and turns. The end results will be the same. My story will be stronger and better. And for it all I will give a huge THANK YOU to every person that read my words, highlighted them in red or wrote a little note about a sentence that was liked or disliked. I asked you to put me on this ride and I don't regret a second.


  1. I don't think anyone expects you to be delighted with criticism of your work, the emotions you experience are true of all writers.

    What isn't acceptable is being upset, annoyed, etc. with the person who has criticised the writing (your beta reader or CP). I don't think you are that way inclined, but that's the only time you're expected to swallow your feelings ans just say thank you for all the hard work (even if it was incredibly painful to read).

    Struggling to make changes and immprove your work isn't unprofessional at all.

    Moody Writing

  2. I can only imagine that rollercoaster Patricia, I'm yet to get on my own. I know it's difficult, but I also know you can get through it. Step away when you need to and remember, you don't have to take everything as gospel. Depending on who's doing the telling, remember it's your story. Be kind to you.

  3. @Mooderino, you're right, I'm not mad at the people that offered to read. I am very grateful to them. Still there comes times when I see something they mark and I ask why? The emotions just show how much I love my baby I guess. lol

    @Rebecca, oh just wait until you get to that point... just wait. lol!

  4. Heh yes, I am still reading. Normally I can breeze through a book, but I want to take the time to make the notes for you because I think the critiques are how we grow and learn as writers.

    That being said, you know from my own posts how much even a little comment can knock you down and kill your confidence. You kind of have to take the time to mourn, be Debbie Downer for a bit so long as you don't wallow for too long. That horse won't wait forever for you to get back up on it...they get hungry and wander away, ya know? Damn tempting apples...I digress...

    Just remember, you don't have to make every change suggested. They are suggestions for a reason. If something feels right in your gut, let it be. Sometimes it's not a matter of changing your idea, but rewording things slightly. I often make notes about changing repetitive wording or rearranging sentences. If it doesn't feel right to you, don't do it. You are the author, the ultimate artist of this piece. You know it better than anyone and it will represent you so you get final say.

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head MB! And can't wait to see what you think (Even if it makes me go Why the hell do you think that... Actually, I think those moments are the best because it really makes me stop and consider what I wrote. Funny how things work. Or I'm just trying to justify my emotions. lol)

  6. I think another thing that really helps me to keep my calm and get back to it is to remember that every book on those shelves have been re-written and revised. Nothing is in it's original form! Even those NYT Best Sellers :D

  7. I got a spanking in my critique group recently. Seems like one person didn't like the way I frown when I'm thinking. He felt I should be all smiley-face when he was pointing out how to improve a sentence I wrote. I was trying to figure out how it would change the overall tone if I made his changes.

    Another said I roll my eyes all the time. A carryover from the decades of wearing contact lenses. Once she knew that, she no longer thought I was dissing her.

    Now if only I could make my thinking face look less serious and more smiley-face... Probably so not going to happen.

  8. Well, to be honest, putting your work out for critique is very much like standing in front of somebody naked. All you want to do is cover up and hide. Then, when they start taking out the red ink, circling and noting areas of improvement can really deflate your self confidence and make you want to disappear and give up.

    My face usually flushes and nausea washes over me. I get through it by telling myself to "Calm down." constantly and "Your work will only get better." Sure, once we go through the range of emotions brought on by the feedback we can step back and appreciate the help the beta reader or critique group gave us, but it doesn't make it hurt any less. Hang in there!

  9. Patricia,

    I so agree. I write romance and I think, depending on the type of romance you're writing, your audience expects the rules to be a little loose. The first mistake I made was I contracted a man to review a romance book. That was before I put the erotic bits in it. He was just looking at the core story.

    I hit that "WTF?" moment when he came back with an editorial comment that my character was immoral. The two people were ex-lovers and he was married, still coming onto the the female love interest. She treated him mostly as a phone friend but she agreed to meet him at a coffee shop for lunch after making it crystal clear they were just friends.

    I guess its a matter of comfort but it felt like the same choice of picking an OBGYN. Sometimes, women are just better.