It seems somehow appropriate on this dreary and rainy Tuesday to discuss something about which all writers worry. No, not the Dreaded Synopsis.
It’s especially appropriate since I just turned in a manuscript which required revisions and since at my Saturday workshop someone asked, “What do you do when someone asks you to change your work?”
The answer was simple: You do the revisions.
It’s one of those things that I often warn aspiring authors about – being a diva. I’ve heard more than one writer say that they won’t make any changes to their work and I often wonder whether they’ll ever get published or if they do, will they be able to sustain a career.
Although some believe that editors are like carpenters with a hammer and nail, give them paper and a pen and they want to make changes, the reality of it is that editors know the market and what’s selling. They understand voice and pacing and conflict. They oftentimes will see past what’s on the page to what the writer wants to accomplish because many times the writer has become so involved in their work and knows it so intimately that they fail to get what’s up in their heads down on paper.
It’s the editor’s job to make sure that gets done and a good editor will accomplish just that.
What if what the editor wants you to do is totally different than what you want to do?
That’s a tough situation for sure and the answer is not so simple. The first thing to do is divest your ego from the work. Look at it as an outsider would. Are the editor’s comments justified? Do you think that they might possibly make the work better or more marketable? If the answer is “yes”, then take a moment and try rewriting the first ten or so pages with the editor’s suggestions.
Now step back and look at it again. Is it better? More marketable? Then dig in and start rewriting.
You may have noticed that I’ve used that “marketable” word multiple times already because the reality is that if you’re writing commercial fiction (as in selling to the mass market), what you’re writing needs to sell. That means it needs to meet certain reader and bookseller expectations.
Your editor is the one who can best tell you whether or not you’ve managed to do that.
If you’re still not convinced about all the changes, then try a conciliatory approach rather than a confrontational one. For example, when I first wrote DARKNESS CALLS one of the revision requests was that I have the heroine, Diana Reyes, become a vampire at the end of the novel. In my heart I felt that the story was much too complicated and rich for that kind of ending. I also felt that there would be greater emotion and impact for the readers if the characters had that conflict hanging over their heads – Love me even though I will die before you do. It spoke of a much greater love and commitment if Ryder and Diana chose to get together despite that fact.
I discussed it with my editors and we agreed I would write the ending as I envisioned it and that if it did not work, I would revise it. Bottom line was, the ending worked and we left it as is. Everyone was happy with the compromise we reached initially and the end result.
So the bottom line is, be open to change. Be willing to compromise. Your editors know what’s best and what’s selling. Trust them to help you craft a better book.