Monday, March 21, 2011

The 6 Stages of Having Your Work Professionally Edited

As a certified copyeditor and writing coach, I sometimes see writers go through stages before they finally accept defeat… er… I mean changes to their manuscript.  That’s not to say all writers go through these stages.  Many writers are very open to change and jump at the chance to rework their material.  However, for those who aren’t so ready to “kill their darlings”, here what they might go through.  (By the way, the dialogue pieces inserted in the list of stages are not quotes from anyone.  I’m simply imagining what writers might think.)

  1. Naïveté:  “You don’t love my book?  But my mom, husband, best friend, and dog do.”  “You’re crazy.  My plot isn’t melodramatic.  It’s interesting.”  “What?  My story isn’t different enough?  When was the last time you read a novel about a woman who falls in love with the vampire who is trying to turn her immortal?  I mean, how sick is that?  And clever.  There’s no way anyone else has thought of this.”

  1. Shock and Doubt: “After all my hard work self-editing and all the changes I made based off my critique group’s suggestions, my book still isn’t perfect?”  “Okay, I figured you wouldn’t think my book was ready for publication, but judging by all the suggestions you’ve made, maybe I need to rethink this career choice.”  “Ack!  All those comment bubbles are hurting my eyes.”  “Hummm… One good comment for every five “needs improvement” comments?  Am I ever going to get the hang of this writing thing?”

  1. Refusal or Strong Denial:  “There’s nothing wrong with my story.  You just don’t get it.”  “There’s no way I’m changing that.  I love that part.”  “That isn’t purple prose.  Take another look at it, and you’ll see how wonderfully written it is.”  “Sure the hero isn’t likeable, but that’s the beauty in it.  The fact that she can fall in love with him shows how much love she has to give.”  “There is conflict in that chapter.  The hero and heroine argued the whole time.  That’s real conflict.”

  1. Possible Consideration:  “Okay, if I did think of changing this, then how would I go about it?”  “You might be on to something, but I have to run it past my critique group and see what the members think first.” 

  1. The Last Bit of Hope:  “But what if I did this instead, would that make the difference?  Could I still keep the rest of the chapter?”  “If I had him say this, would he seem more likeable?”  “If I toned down that part, can I still keep it?”

  1. The Light Bulb Moment:  “Man, I reworked it just like you said, and I can’t believe how much better it flows.”  “You’re right, this is a better hook.”  “Wow, conflict is pouring off the pages now.  I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.”

Having a professional make constrictive criticism of your work can hurt, not matter how much the editor “sugar coats” it.  If you’re going to pay for a professional editor to help you improve your manuscript, make sure you’re really ready for the feedback.

Some of you may have experienced the same sort of feelings with critique groups or partners.  Care to share your story?


  1. Sounds eerily familiar. I just went through this with my editor. I was horrified at what they wanted to change, but was ultimately happy I took their advice.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  2. Great post!! Sometimes it is really hard to accept that something you love, that poured from your heart, is not really all that good.

    I have a great critique group and for the most part, they give great advice. But there are some poeple who's opinion I do let go in one ear and out the other.

    And there are other times that people who I normally get great feedback from, give bad advice. I had a piece that no one liked. But I liked it and I believed in it. I made a few small tweaks, and a few weeks later sold it to Chicken Soup for the Soul! You just never know!!

  3. As a member of a writing network, I've gone through the process of rethinking more than several times. Matter of fact, my post today is on this same thing - minus the professional edit. I'm not quite at that stage with the story.

  4. Very similar to the stages of grief. :)

  5. Numbers two and five are spot on here!

  6. I'll run your list past my crit group and let you know (lol)

    At least some of us have ftf crit groups. And only line crit partners.

    I think you do have to go outside those norms sometimes, b/c you get to know the members so well you know what NOT to offer feedback on. I'm there with some of my crit group members - they spend too much time defending their writing and I've decided either I'm too aggressive and trying to force them to accept my own style, or they are in denial because they really really want that conecpt to work.

    I guess I understand that need though; I'm in denial about my women's fic trilogy. They say I should not be writing in that genre, toss it, and I defend it with a lot of heartfelt buts . .

    Hard to know when to listen and when to keep at it. I've gotten a lot of great feedback on my writing - yep, mostly in the thriller and fantasy :)

    So yes, I think there is merit in having a paid, unbiased editor, and plan on submitting myself one day, when the finances permit.

    Awesome stages Lynette; I'm sure I've went through them all in the course of my writing - and may yet still be in a couple.


  7. I love and welcome constructive criticism. While it can be difficult to swallow sometimes, there's always a lesson to be learned, only increasing your skills as a writer. Great post!

  8. I appreciate the critique I have gotten thus far by my wonderful *editor* who writes amazing post =) I feel I am in a good place right now rewriting to make my novel the best it can be.