“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.
Find out what other Insecure Writers are talking about this month, and go and give them some support!