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.)
- 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.”
- 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?”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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?”
- 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?