Humbled and irritated by the experience of receiving my publisher’s feedback on my novel, I dove (swooped? wallowed? waded? tiptoed?) into the revision process.
No matter how many years I have spent being edited—and knowing that editing is good for me and my work—I still struggle with the fundamental question: when does editing legitimately improve the text and when does it muck with my vision to a degree that I can’t accept?
I’m in the middle of that conflict now as I strive to figure out how to address my publisher’s concerns. I agree that I don’t want my book to be dense, difficult to get into, and confusing unless one has read it three times. On the other hand, I don’t want it to be vapid, facile, and completely spelled out. Somewhere between those two extremes lies the sweet spot that marries my vision for the book with a compelling narrative that grips—and holds—the attention of a large percentage of readers.
Wow, this should be a piece of cake.
We all have something we hold dear: a value, a principle, a way of being. We all have had those dear things challenged—by a boss, a child, a spouse, a friend. What’s tricky is when the immovable object of our conviction meets the unstoppable force of someone else’s faith. At worst, the result is a conflagration born of clashing values: terror at the barrel of a gun, a bomb. When we can access our better selves, what results is the discourse of civil society—and even a way to bring that society to a better place.
I’m opting for the latter approach with my publisher. Because I know she comes from a place of compassion and support, I can listen to her words and absorb them. The judgment I make about what to change and what to preserve in my writing will not be made blindly, but informed by the input of someone who shares my ultimate goal.
Editing will be very much on my mind as I prepare to give a presentation with Lisa Meltzer Penn at next month’s meeting of our local California Writer’s Club branch. On February 21, we’ll present Red Pen Secrets: Editing Tips and Tricks. Our aim will be to help writers understand the editor’s perspective. What do we look for when we’re editing? What makes a compelling story? What are some things every writer can do before submitting a piece? Most of all, we want to convey that editors have writers’ best interests—and best writing—at heart.
Editing thine own self?
Initially I thought of titling this post “To thine own self be true.” Then I read these thoughts at Bigthink.com. I had interpreted the statement as meaning to thine own self be true, as opposed to being true to someone else’s self. Clearly, I had no idea the myriad interpretations that could spawn from six little words of Shakespeare.
Writers or readers, have you ever questioned what seemed to be the bedrock of your belief about yourself? Have you ever had to defend that belief?