This quote crossed my path, thanks to The Story Reading Ape and the Blonde Writer… and the originator, Angeline Trevena.
“Your first draft is a petulant teenager, sure it knows best, adamant that its mother is wrong. Your third draft has emerged from puberty, realising that its mother was right about everything.”
It is one of the things that has helped me through the first four chapters of my book, back from the editor. It was clear that she hated it. She objected to just about everything, including the descriptions of my heroes. I gulped and worked on it, trying to reconcile my wonderful heroes with her viewpoint, which in my view failed to take account (a) of the criticism that I don’t describe my characters enough for my readers to visualise them and (b) it’s scifi, set in the twenty-ninth century. I still don’t know what the answer to having one with a Spanish name and one with a Swedish name (both the most common names I could think of, for a good reason), when these countries and races are long gone, but in my view names continue. It’s called world-building; I want as much diversity as I can build in, yet it just seems to upset her views of how things should work.
A minor breakthrough came when she realised that, no, not all my womenfolk had to be feisty, strong, kick-ass heroines. Some of them would rather be at home, cooking. Home-making is not against the law. And since they couldn’t do that, they enjoyed it when they could. And one of the guys wasn’t mooching about in a fit of alpha male dominant vexation, he missed the absent one.
So I was spared the fit of petulant teenager syndrome when she started to realise that maybe my characters were there for a reason. And it’s not 2015 where they are. Or 2016, either.
So now I am continuing to work on her suggested edits. I try to keep myself out of teenage mode, setting things aside when I disagree with her for a good reason. I’m working through the ideas she has for alterations which I know are good, and which fix my habit of putting down what is in my head, thinking it’s my ‘voice’ when actually it’s just bad English. Although I have verified independently that her complaint about my dangling participles is ill-founded, since they are subordinate clauses and perfectly allowable.
And I remind myself, time and time again, this is what a new reader thinks. I must not expect them to read my mind. I just don’t want to spell out everything, since some things I want them to imagine. It should have mystery. It should not be unfathomable. Maybe a glossary of 29th century terms would help, though.
And my editor wants me to put back all the ‘thats’ that I’ve taken out based on other editing advice.
You can’t win.
But you can re-edit and rewrite and prune and hone until it’s the best it can possibly be. Wish me luck.
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12 thoughts on “#IWSG – keeping your editor happy”
Great post, Jemima. Patience is a virtue.
Never been good on patience, Steve!
Your petulant teen image (okay, I know you borrowed it, but you shared it with me) has been helping me get through the work I don’t really want to do. And I take out LOTS of “thats” and my text never seems to miss them.
I do notice that when I go through my list of over-used words (some general, some idiosyncratic) and edit them more or less in isolation, I find I have to put some back when I do my final read-aloud. I think that’s okay.
Ah, yes, reading aloud. I must do that. The guinea pigs may get bored, as they don’t understand space – they do understand castles and tunnels!
It can be really challenging to pull back from what I write far enough to see where I have under-explained things. Like you, though, I don’t want to be Captain Obvious. I dislike books that over-explain everything and shove too much explanation in. Of course, maybe the author’s editor made them do it!
I like your glossary idea a lot! A friend of mine did that with his book and I found that it really added a lot to the reading experience – like another layer. Plus, it lets readers pop in if/when they need clarification. Some readers might need it a lot, while others will barely need it.
~Tui, dropping by from TuiSnider.com via IWSG
Thanks for your idea, Tui – a great help.
That’s a great quote! I always feel like I’m trying not to be too petulant when I’m dealing with edits–I try to remember that my editor often knows best, and if they don’t, we can talk about it. Good luck with your work, and may it mature beautifully!
Great strategy! I’ve had similar feedback before and you have to really wear an armor of patience… You are doing the right thing to keep the emotions and teenage petulance out of it, but the feedback should’ve come without it to begin with. Valuable feedback should be objective, but so few people can do that and keep their emotions out of it. If you’ve had a bunch of “I hate this and I hate that” then maybe you should change editor. Good luck!
Fortunately ‘hate’ didn’t come into it, but I think a mismatch of minds was there. It’s the first space scifi she’s handled for me; maybe it’s not her thing. But she has taught me when to use semi-colons!
There needs to be some give and take when editing a book. It’s almost two people’s visions meshing together into one.
That’s a great metaphor – and this time it was more like a grinding of gears 🙂
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