How To Survive the Edit Letter

Okay, my feathered friends, today we've got another guest blogger! Welcome Shari Arnold, who's here to help you curb your neurosis...er, manage your edit letter.

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How To Survive the Edit Letter:

I know, I know. We're not supposed to talk about it. It's one of the mysteries of the publishing world, an essential part of how a book becomes a book. And everyone does it. I mean, without edits the libraries and bookstores would be empty. Books would not exist.

But for those of you wondering how to get from point A (the revision you finished a month ago) to point B (the re-revision you need to finish a month from now) here are a few suggestions:

1. Read the letter and then take some time to ignore it.
Seriously. Banish it. Hide it in a dark corner where you can't see its beady little eyes berating you and your tell-not-show self. It's important to let your editor's suggestions, questions, and comments sink in before you write her that email that explains how you JUST CAN'T MAKE IT ANY BETTER!

2. Don't Send The Email.
I know you want to write it. I know you've probably saved the draft and you'll continue to add a new excuse every few minutes (the excuses get better the longer you sit at the computer). I can even tell you exactly what your opening lines will be: I DO TOO KNOW MY CHARACTERS! Ask me anything! I could even tell you what song my MC is listening to AT THIS VERY MINUTE!

3. Do the character study.
Believe me. You don't always know the answers. And when you finally do, your characters will come alive, jump off the page and dance around your room. And it's okay to dance with them. They're just as excited to be alive.

4. Plotting and Pacing aren't here to hurt you.
You may think you've got it all figured out because your mom, best friend, and your two amazing critique partners love your book and tell you you're fabulous, but it's your editor's job to make your book better. And you want it to be better. You do. If you don't believe me, go ask Goodreads.

5. New scenes are like rainbows and unicorns.
Now that you know your characters, and you've been told exactly where the readers are going to drop off like flies, it's time to write some new stuff.

And that's the fun part. Remember this. It's very important.

Writing is what you love. You love to write.

Because you do. If you didn't you wouldn't be sitting all alone at a computer, making stuff up in your head, while the rest of the world is living and breathing reality.

So go write.

Oh. And chocolate helps. I recommend Junior Mints.

Shari Arnold is the author of MYSTIQUE coming Fall 2012 from Chronicle Books. Check out her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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Thanks, Shari! Those of you who've done major revisions, is she right or what? Don't we often just need a few days away from a critique in order to incorporate it? My vote is yes.

9 comments:

Kate Evangelista said...

I remember being excited about getting my editorial letter. I always strive to be better at my craft, and one of the ways that we can learn is through that editorial letter. Love the post. Thank you for it!

Cherie Reich said...

Such great advice, especially number one. It's best to read the editorial letter and then put it away for a couple days before doing anything. It's so easy to see all the word you have to do and think you can't do it, even though you can and will. You just need time to get over the panic and hurt. :)

Diana Renn said...

Great advice, Shari. And I agree with others here it's a wonderful learning experience. My writing took a huge surge forward because of my edit letter(s). Viewing the process as instructional helped me to emotionally detach, and I greatly appreciated tips on plotting and pacing.

all-things-andy-gavin.com said...

All good advice. When I get an edit letter I go through it and reorganize the comments, making my own "todo" version which is organized chronologicaly (as the book flows) by chapter. I color entries differently to mark them as "will do," "might/should do," "punt." I also make a section of the big, hairly, hard and open debates.
I find that the "by chapter" structure is much closer to what will actually have to be done, and is more useful to work off of. Sometimes a single comment in the edit letter might be many in the chapter breakdown because one plot (or character) change might need to occur in multiple stages in different chapters.
I have a bunch more thoughts on the writing/editing process on my blog.

Melissa Dymock said...

Thanks for the suggestion on setting it aside. As an editor, I think a lot of authors have a knee jerk response to edits.

Sally said...

Thanks for the great advice. When I get an edit letter - I will probably jump up and down and rejoice - after I have my chocolate of course.

Kristin Rae said...

haha this is fabulous. I'm stowing away the advice for the one day when I WILL need it! ;)

Emily said...

This is great. Thanks for demystifying the editorial letter. One consolation to the letter should be that at least SOMEONE has some faith in your book. Someone important who wants to publish it.

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