Thursday, July 20, 2006

Something to Think About

I'm dragging myself back from the edge of insanity to offer some advice about the publishing world.

Yesterday, I received my line edits for my February release. LITTLE GIRL LOST is the second book in the Secrets of Stoneley continuity, and I was very excited to have the opportunity to write it. Line edits mean my book is getting closer to production. Which means I'm getting closer to holding the finished product in my hand. Yay!

Anyway, I was reading through the comments scribbled in the margin and I started wondering just how many hours the editor and copy editor spent working on my manuscript. I'd say a lot. I know I've mentioned this before, but I feel the need to say it again - every published book is a group project. Sure, the author comes up with the idea (usually). Sure she slaves over the first, second, third, fifteenth draft. She's also the one that's going to get the reader mail, the recognition, and the pats on the back if the book gets good reviews or places in contests. But that doesn't mean the book is only hers.

To survive in the publishing world, authors must realize that they are part of a team. They also must realize that they work for the editor. The editor does not work for them. An author must be willing to release ownership of her manuscript. Rather than arguing and fighting for every word and scene, she must be open to changes and willing to do what it takes to make a manuscript meet the editor's vision of what it should be.

Painful to think about, isn't it? We work so hard to create what we think are stellar manuscripts. We polish, shine, and make them into exactly what we want them to be. Then we sell them and they are no longer ours. They are someone else's. And that someone else has the right (and I'd argue the responsibility) to ask for changes that create a book that more thoroughly meets reader expectations.

Personally, I don't have a problem with being asked to change things in my manuscript. I suppose because I view my books as a product rather than art. Sure, I believe that writing is an art, I love the flow and feel of words as they form sentences, paragraphs, chapters, books, but in the end what matters is how well my book sells. In this regard, my editors know more then I do. Of course, if you ask Krista Stroever she'll probably bring up Showergate. It's the one and only time I've argued for a scene. I lost. She won. It was for the best.

If you all come up with really interesting comments, I might share the details of Showergate. Until then, I'd like to suggest that understanding the editorial aspects of creating a book now, rather than after you're published, will help when faced with unfavorable critiques (and no, I am not referring to any manuscripts that I've critiqued or any responses I've gotten from the authors of those manuscripts :0)). As hard as it may be, we must step back from negative feedback and view it for what it is - a chance to improve our writing.

My thought on this is not popular, but I'm sticking to it - there is always a grain of truth in the negative. For the most part, people aren't setting out to destroy our egos, ruin our manuscripts, or change our work into theirs. For the most part they are doing their best to offer advice they think might benefit us. The key is in reading between the lines. I often find that negative comments are misdirected. One of my manuscript readers might feel the ending doesn't fit the book, but not be able to figure out why. I can choose to ignore the comment, or to study the section that doesn't fit and try to pinpoint exactly why it bothered my reader. I've had my freelance editor tell me she didn't like my heroine. Trust me when I say I wanted to ignore her 'opinion'. Fortunately, I didn't.

Don't be afraid of negative comments. Use them as tools to help you become an even better writer than you already are!


Dani said...

Hey Shirlee,

Ah, the famous Showergate. Great name for it! LOL!

Dani :o)

Sabrina L. Fox said...

This isn't a big problem for me(at this point, anyway) I know the editors know tons more than I do. (no ego and all) LOL. And I love when I get something back that helps make my story better.

However, I know most of us have scenes or story lines that we like and hate to hear they need to be cut. It's hard sometimes. I have a published friend who mentors a huge amount of people and she told me once it's so frustrating when you give advice to someone and they argue with you.

Glad you posted today, Shirlee! I missed your nuggets of wisdom. ;)(and we must hear about Showergate!)

Cara Putman said...

Shirlee, thanks for the reminder about holding even our writing with an open hand.

MommyCheryl said...

"I can choose to ignore the comment, or to study the section that doesn't fit and try to pinpoint exactly why it bothered my reader."

Around here, folks are famous for giving directions like 'left at the old Smith farm' 'turn just past the tree that was hit by lightening back in 56' (you think I"m kidding..) Sometimes, I know this whole area so well that I forget that someone who doesn't have that picture needs to know that that left turn is onto Route 32.

Criticism is an opportunity (but hopefully not a painful one)to see where your picture isn't coming through to your reader. And that is hugely important to a reader. I am actually reading a book right now with technical issues that are bugging me...timelines and details off. Love the plot and characters, but this is driving me nuts.

That is where I need other people in my writing. If something is not geting through to my reader, then I suspect that my directions lack route numbers, so to speak. Communication of any form can on ly be measured as success when the recipient gets the intended information. If that isn't happening, you aren't likely to see it without a recipients input.



Sabrina L. Fox said...

Shirlee must be busy with her edits. LOL ; )