Please welcome back guest Densie Webb whose first novel is You’ll Be Thinking of Me. Densie is currently working on novels two and three, and she’s also a nonfiction writer/editor, mainly about health and nutrition. She has written for The New York Times, Parade, been a columnist for Prevention, Family Circle and now writes for industry and trade organizations. She added fiction to the mix about six years ago and never looked back. She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, SheWrites, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Romance Writers of America. She’s a music lover, walker (not of the dead variety), dreamer, warm-weather enthusiast, and has now acquired all of the usual writer quirks, including the uncontrollable urge to write about people and things that live only in her head. Connect with Densie on Facebook and on Twitter.
The Dreaded Editorial Letter
I recently received the Editorial Letter from my developmental editor for my second manuscript. Eight debilitating pages, single-spaced, in addition to imbedded comments on almost every page. As you probably know, either from experience or hearsay, editorial letters can be traumatic. They are not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged, but they are a necessity. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
With my first manuscript, I waited a month before I worked up the courage to open The Letter (without a deadline, I was afforded the luxury). This time, however, I ripped off the Band-Aid and clicked “open” with equal parts excitement and trepidation.
It was like someone telling me I’m beautiful, while punching me in the gut, knocking the air out of my lungs. As with any good editor or critiquer, my editor provided positive feedback “This is a WONDERFUL framework for what I think can be a compelling, romantic and affecting story.” But there were lots more, “What is this?” “I don’t understand?” “This is a recap.” “How does this move the story forward?” And plenty of, “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
On your first read through said letter, thoughts of self-flagellation may be front and center—as they were for me—as well as doing harm to said editor. (How dare she call my protagonist weak?) It’s only after you’ve had time to digest your editor’s words will you be able to step back and nod in hearty agreement and forgive them their perceived sins, even if you haven’t a clue how you’re going to address any of it.
Not long after receiving my letter, I enrolled in and binged on Aaron Sorkin’s Masterclass on scriptwriting. He said that he himself always works with someone to get advice on what needs to be “fixed” in his drafts. And he said that he always nods in agreement during the meeting. But, he also said, and I’m paraphrasing here, “By the time I’ve left the office and am pushing the down button on the elevator, I want to kill myself, because I have no idea how I’m going to fix anything.” Even the esteemed Mr. Sorkin finds the process difficult.
Everyone’s approach to addressing the Editorial Letter is different, just as everyone’s approach to writing differs. Granted, this is only my second time up at bat, but I think I can offer some useful advice for coping with that dreaded letter that will keep you from committing hari kari or editorial homicide. [Read more…]