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Sunday, March 29, 2015

When Your Editor Slaps You Upside the Head

Whoo, doggie! What a wild ride.

Getting book blurbs for The Troubles has been challenging. I've reached out to authors I admire and who inspire me with their accomplishments. It has been anxiety provoking because I'm forcing myself to reach beyond my comfort zone. I'm human. Maybe it's an author thing, a creative-person-angst-thing or a woman thing. Or maybe I'm triple cursed by feeling all three, but I'm keenly aware of all of that isn't perfect.

I was at a reading for an author who expressed the same sentiment. Myfanwy Collins read from her beautiful novel, The Book of Laney. Afterwards, she commented she couldn't bear reading the whole work again now that it's published because of the changes she would want to make. Her reading left audience members in tears and she still felt she could edit more. I know she would agree that at a certain point in time, you just have to declare your work done and get it out there.

Feedback from writing groups or beta readers is one thing. Feedback from authors you greatly admire is another. So, when I received feedback on my book from an award winning author, I really took the message to heart. Candidly, the author was critical of my first paragraph. Egads! If a reader doesn't like your first paragraph, what is going to make them want to read more? It's the Big Kahuna. First sentence leads to first paragraph that leads to first chapter that leads to let's-buy-this-book-and-read-the-whole-thing. Simply put, screw up early and you're screwed.

I yelped and sent the message to my editor. As a senior editor at a major publisher, she knows her stuff. I trust her. Getting barked at by the author made me question if I was doing enough. Maybe I should work the manuscript more. Maybe I've missed something.

The only thing I was missing was a good slap upside my head. In clipped and precise phrases that only an experienced editor can utter, she told me that I've done the heavy lifting, the homework, and the revisions. I've gone the extra mile to make sure my work was as perfect as I could humanly make it. Then I let the work cool.

I sent it out and I listened. I didn't just sit quietly and let the reviewers speak. I heard what was being said. She reminded me that no one person or one piece of work is going to be all things to all people. Filtering the criticism and taking from it what works for me, my genre, my readers, and my instincts is what will make it my work, not something watered down by committee.

My first paragraph does what it was intended to do. Set the tone. Set the scene. By using seventy-five words to establish time, place, and action, the rest of that chapter crackles with tension. Sure I could fret and revise, but if I did, I'd be losing something in the totality. The author read two paragraphs and dashed off an email. Perhaps those were actions of someone not invested in giving me the time to begin with.

She said the following:  "You wrote an exciting, unusual story that your readers are going to devour. The writing is strong. Characters and plot are strong. Backstories are strong. Action, pacing, transitions, and flow are strong." She reminded me how many times I've had that paragraph critiqued. Author panels. Agent panels. Peer groups. No one stopped at the first paragraph.

Since receiving that one comment from that one author, I've received other comments along the lines of "amazing." 

I've worked in the "men's world" law, banking, and finance. Times are changing, but I feel I had to be better than my peers to succeed. The same is true for being an indie in a "traditional" world. My book has to be that much better for it to succeed.

I'm human. I get rattled. Having the confidence of my editor behind me will make my skin a wee bit tougher to manage in the big bad world. She slapped me upside the head. She had me assess the comment through the prisms of the author and my vision and take from it the validity, not the criticism. 

This is why I love my editor. I've done my homework and worked within the process and gone the extra miles. I need to be confident that I've written another kick-ass book.

Will everyone love me? Nope. But that's okay.

More on Author to Reader Marketing (A2RMarketing) can be found here.