Well, I was wrong.
I opened the document from my editor a couple of hours before our scheduled phone call wanting to prepare myself for our conversation. And as I read through the overview notes (two pages single spaced), my heart plummeted lower and lower with each new problem she pointed out.
Shock, despair, and denial overwhelmed me.
I laid my head in my hands and wanted to weep with the discouragement of seeing all of the many, many issues that I would need to address. Here are just a few of my editor’s comments:
• Readers had a hard time sympathizing with your heroine. Her character arc needs reworking to make her more likeable.
• Your hero comes off a bit weak at times. We’d like to see him more confident, determined, and forceful in character.
• Your romance shows some emotional and character attraction and that is good, but it pushes the limits on sensuality.
Of course, I had to pull myself together for the phone call. I had to gain perspective and a modicum of acceptance before the call. I couldn’t answer the phone and burst into tears.
Fortunately, I have the kind of relationship with my agent where I can easily shoot her an email, voice my truest, deepest feelings, and I know that she’ll listen but then also advise me on the wisest course of action. She was able to calm me down. And I was able to handle the call with my editor gracefully.
What am I learning from this experience? Here are just a few things:
1. It’s perfectly normal for us to get discouraged when we get feedback.
My agent told me this in her email: “It's normal to feel like crying! If that's the way you feel, just allow it for a day or two.” She went on to share about other authors who have gone through the exact same experience with their rewrites on the 10th or even 20th book in order to show that it’s not just me.
2. We might fall in love with our books. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will.
I admit, I absolutely fall in love with my first drafts. Every single one. I think the passion is what drives my story and love of writing. But, I’m learning that my editors won’t squeal with delight and rush to congratulate me on my masterpiece. They’re trained to look for problems. In fact, their radars are tuned to find as many issues as possible.
3. Sometimes we need to lower our expectations or develop more realistic ones.
My agent suggested that perhaps I need to re-evaluate my expectations. She said: "Maybe you were thinking that after the first book or two, you'd deliver books and they'd go, 'Fabulous! Perfect!' and hardly have any editing for you.” And for some publishing houses, maybe that’s true. But my publisher wants to keep pushing me to be better, to keep growing, and to make every book better for my readership.
4. Cultivate humility and a teachable attitude.
Once again, my wise agent told me this: Stop thinking, "When will I ever please them?" Instead think, "I've written the best book I can, and now I look forward to some feedback that will help me make it even better." Easier said than done. But ultimately don’t we all want to put THE best book possible out there? That means we have to take ourselves off the pedestal and admit we have room to grow.
5. In the end, trust your editor/publisher more than you trust yourself.
As I’ve spent the past week reading through my manuscript and evaluating their feedback, I’ve realized they’re spot on with almost every issue. My heroine was coming across abrasive in spots. I could do more to make my hero stronger, especially earlier in the book. And yes, I really did need to tone down some of my sensual elements so that the majority of Bethany House readers will enjoy and appreciate the book.
My Summary: Whether it’s hard feedback from a critique partner, an agent, contest judge, or in-house editor, we usually can’t make decisions about our feedback during the initial sting. We need to give it some time, perhaps talk with friends who understand, and then come back to the suggestions with objective and humble eyes.
What about you? Have you ever gotten feedback that’s made you want to cry? How do you handle difficult feedback?
Mid-week blog tour stops! Visit each one for a chance to WIN my new book!
Wednesday 9/21: On Laura Davis's blog I'm sharing how I stumbled upon the idea for the true life-story of Narcissa Whitman.
Wednesday 9/21: I'm visiting with Erika Robuk on her blog and sharing more about the writing of The Doctor's Lady!
Thursday 9/22: I'm guest posting on Jami Gold's blog and talking about whether religion in books is taboo or terrific.
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