The one thing I saw a lot of on those boards/blogs was editor bashing. Not necessarily a specific editor, but editors in general. Yes, publishing can often move at a glacial pace, and waiting six months to hear from an editor can seem like an eternity – even worse is if after six months you get the dreaded form rejection.
Hey, I can relate. Really. Been there, done that, and I have the extra ten pounds on my thighs from all the chocolate I ate in my misery to prove it.
But what disturbs me are the people who seem to think editors are evil beings, only here to make a writer’s life hell. Interestingly enough, the vitriol seems to come most from people who have been asked by an editor to make changes to their book.
Gasp! Horrors! How dare some editor think your book needs changing! Dog forbid you should be told your characters don’t have enough emotional conflict to sustain your story or that your pacing is dragging. (Trust me, they’re right 99.9% of the time. If the editor says it isn’t there, it’s not there. This isn’t a graduate seminar where you’re supposed to sit around a table and second-guess whether the bird on page 23 is a symbol of the Resurrection or not. You don’t get to explain stuff to your readers outside the words on the page. It has to be there. We wouldn’t be arguing about that bird if there wasn’t something in the story already to suggest that it might. )
These are often the same people who turn to vanity or self-publishing because they don’t want one of those evil editors “messing” with their story. (But that’s a whole ‘nother rant for another day…)
I’m reminded of this recently, because I really, really (heart) my editor right now. She’s fab, and I (heart) her every day anyway, but especially now. See, even with all the fun of field trips and plotting sessions with the Fabu CP (and everyone else who made the mistake of having coffee with me), I was really struggling with this book. And by struggling, I mean I was being sucked into the Giant Black Hole of Crap (tm) from I was sure which my book (and my career) would never return.
These are the times, my friends, when your editor becomes your Most Favorite Person Evah. Editors can make your book better – that’s the purpose of revision letters. They see the thread in your plot that didn’t get tied off, the motivations that seem crystal clear to you because you know your characters but aren’t actually clear to anyone else on the planet, the part that just doesn’t ring true, or the part that you left out. By pointing these things out to you so you can fix them, they help you make your book stronger, more interesting, and well, better.
And you’re the one that gets to fix them, so it’s still your story.
Most importantly, though, editors know the line and they know you. Thirty-something minutes of brainstorming with my editor solved weeks of angst and worry and crap-production. What we came up with is different from my original vision of the book, but hey, that vision wasn’t working real well for me anyway. Plus, it was producing large amounts of stress (as those who live with me can tell you). The new vision of the book fits me better, fits my voice better, and I’m pretty sure will produce a much better book in the end.
I’m going to be rewriting a lot. Many of those golden drops of brilliant prose (snort) will be sent to the deleted scenes file. And that synopsis thing? Gone. You know what, though? I’m looking forward to it. Simply because my editor can look at the line, the book, and me and see the place where they intersect. When they don’t intersect, she’s able to point me in a different direction – probably one I couldn’t see before – and that pulls me out of the Giant Black Hole of Crap (tm). I’m happy, she’s happy, my readers are happy. There’s no bad there.
So, no, editors are not evil. No one likes to hear there’s something not working in a book, but the fact someone pointed it out to you doesn’t make that person evil. If I told you that you had spinach in your teeth, you wouldn’t think I was evil, would you? I hope not. I’m just trying to help.
I’m a much happier camper this week. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but it should be easier because I’m not fighting my own voice and style and comfort level to try to write the *other* book.
How well do you handle constructive criticism?