Today it’s my turn to respond to our topic for this month with WRITERS AT WORK: Editorial Suggestions. I went first on December 7 and Sandy Asher responded on December 14. Sandy will close out the month on December 28 with her second response. On that day I will also post a guest author piece by Mara Rockliff that I know you will enjoy.
WRITERS AT WORK
Topic 4: Dealing with Editorial Suggestions
Response 3: David
December 21, 2010
Hi Sandy. I liked your closing advice last week about not sending to everyone on our list before we’ve given ourselves a chance to benefit from editorial comments and suggestions that might improve our story and our chances. I don’t know about you but one way I can tell that I’ve grown more patient and open over the years is that I’m more willing now to think carefully about the pros and cons of advice from an editor (or anyone else for that matter).
One of my writer friends questions the merit of attending writers’ conferences. I think it’s always a good idea to put ourselves in places where we have opportunities to visit with editors and hear more about what they seek in a manuscript. I bet at one time or another we’ve all been guilty of sending a story to an editor who is not in that market. Or an editor who just recently published a similar story. Or an editor who simply doesn’t like animals that talk. Remarks from editors who are basically not interested are likely to be short and to the point, and not necessarily aimed at improving our work.
On the other hand, when I go to New York each year to make appointments with editors with whom I’m working on a project, I always come away with a clearer sense of what is going on in their world. Once I have a contract on a book, things change from general comments to specific ones. At this point I’m even more more likely to follow advice when I’m working with my editor-partner. Recently I completed a manuscript, submitted it, and received my editor’s suggestions.
His general comment was filled with enough praise to send me strutting around the house for a few minutes feeling the rush. Then I opened the attachment and took a long look at those specific and inevitable critical suggestions. Why that! Who does he . . . How? No I can’t do that! . . . Impossible! Hmmm. This makes me so . . . Hmmm. Well that makes sense. I’ll be darned. Oh come on! Hmmm. I do like that better. Huh. Oookaaay, let’s start at the beginning.
Sandy, I don’t know what percentage of the editor’s ideas I eventually adapt into the revised manuscript. It’s a significant number. And not all of the good ideas come from the editor. One time I wrote a poem about a ladybug with a beard and made the crack that I could tell it was no lady bug. The copy editor sweetly reminded me that some women do indeed sport quite a lot of hair and that her hirsute daughter was sometimes teased by the boys. I apologized for my thoughtlessness and insensitivity and wrote a different poem.
I guess the issue of how we respond to suggestions about our work — whether from an editor, a spouse, or writing buddy – boils down to this. Does the suggestion make sense to me? Will I like the work better after making the change? And do I think the quality of the story will benefit.
Back to you to wrap up.