Many years ago, I worked for Planned Parenthood as a sex educator. My primary work was going into the community and talking to people about things we most often think of as sex ed basics: sexually transmitted infections and birth control methods. Those are important issues, but I’ve always believed that the most valuable thing I taught was negotiation, because one of the more difficult parts about sexuality is getting what you want without being coerced into what you don’t want. This is true for people of all ages, genders, and sexualities. No matter where you are in life, it’s useful to have a list that can be broken down into three parts.
- What you want to do
- What you might be willing to do
- What you absolutely do not want to do
If you have this list in your head, it makes it a lot easier to decide how you’ll respond in a situation where you’re considering having sexual contact with another person, whether it’s someone new or someone very familiar.
Now, what the heck does this have to do with writing? It turns out, that list of three that I learned in relationship to sex has been incredibly useful to me when it comes to working through the editorial process.
In the early days of your writing, you probably got used to receiving feedback from friends, family, or beta readers. You started learning to pick and choose what feedback you were going to use and what feedback didn’t work for you. The further you get into the publishing business, though, the harder it can be to decide which suggestions to implement and which to ignore.
It may be something as simple as a revise and resubmit request from an agent who’s considering representing you, or it may be something a lot more high stakes. You may find yourself on the other side of an email exchange with an editor who has paid good money for your book, and now wants you to make revisions you don’t necessarily agree with.
You may feel a lot of pressure to do the revisions and make the agent or editor happy, because it may seem like this is your opportunity to take the next step in your writing career. Maybe this relationship is the one that will help you get closer to your professional goals. Oddly enough, it starts to sound a lot like how people talk about their romantic relationships, where sex is one of the most complicated negotiations. Similarly, revisions are likely the most complicated negotiations you’ll have in your relationships with editors and agents. This is where having that list of three can come in handy. [Read more…]