It’s no small thing, the moment you get your book back from an editor or beta reader. You feel a lot of things: excitement, anticipation, curiosity, nervousness. Definitely a lot of nervousness. Did they like your book? Did you get enough feedback? What if they hated it? What if they don’t even think it’s worth editing? You know, the usual rabbit trails of nervousness.
Applying edits and feedback is an art form of their own. It requires no small amount of effort, but there are ways to make the practice easier. In writing my own book, I found three practices to help me give my book the best chance for success possible as I made my edits.
1. Be teachable
Not to be blunt, but if you can’t be teachable you might as well put your book in a box, seal it, and never let it see the light of day again. Having a teachable attitude is absolutely vital. I’ve sat in creative writing courses where no matter what the feedback was, the author couldn’t listen to it. Instead of taking in the input of knowledgable people around them, they argued every single critique and refuted every proposed change. These were also the people who complained about their poor grade at the end of the class. It doesn’t pay to ignore feedback.
And I get it! It’s really hard to hear a reader didn’t like what you thought was the best part of your book or have an editor tell you you’ve used a word too many times and need to go through the entire book and take it out. (That’s an actual edit I got back once and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was fussy about it.) No writer wants to admit that their book might be anything less than perfect, but that’s the very thing they need to admit if their book is ever going to improve beyond a base level.
A teachable attitude is absolutely necessary for the success of your book. It doesn’t take much when it really comes down to it. Mostly it’s just a matter of keeping your ears open and your mind receptive. Take the edits and feedback and actually dedicate the time to contemplating each one. I have made copies of my book just for edits. That way I can actually make the edits suggested and compare them to my original. I’m not just wondering what the edits would look like, I’m making them so I have side by side comparisons I can make between the two versions.
Take the time to really process the edits and feedback you receive and don’t be too proud to consider what might need changing in your book.
2. Be decisive
Now, with all that talk about being teachable, there is a balance to it all. Aristotle is credited with saying “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” and the sentiment is deeply applicable to the writing process. As important as it is to be teachable, it’s just as important to keep your finger on the pulse of your book. It is your duty to know the core of your book and where edits would fit in that grand scheme of things.
You aren’t contractually obligated to apply every edit you receive. You need to be firm with yourself and your book. This doesn’t mean outright ignoring edits in the name of independence, but maybe not applying the changes the way they were suggested. This doesn’t, of course, apply to hard and fast grammatical rules, but narrative and design edits. You know where your book is going so it’s up to you to make sure it gets there by your means. Apply your edits, but apply them as
3. Be thickskinned
Nothing kills your book’s potential quite like being overly sensitive. This may be the hardest of the three. Mainly because you can nail being teachable and decisive and still be brought down by your own sensitivity.
The overly sensitive writer does nothing but shoot herself in the foot. Oversensitivity leaves no room for productivity. It’s like a megaphone over your entire process that drowns out any voice of reason or improvement until your books progress just completely stalls. And trust me, I get it. It’s never much fun looking at your book as though it’s anything less than brilliant literature. But if I fell to pieces over every suggestion for Captain Acorn, I never would have had a book. Oversensitivity absolutely kills your book, and you can’t let that happen.
Having a thick skin is while hard to do is simple in steps needed. The best practice is to expose yourself to constructive criticism regularly until receiving it becomes second nature. Nothing takes the sting out of constructive criticism quite like familiarity. With time you’ll find your creative skin thickened and ready to receive feedback no matter the intensity.
Receiving edits is a vital step but the way you apply them is even more vital to the creation of your book. A writer can produce a book, but a good writer can improve it. So long as you are committed to doing the best by your book, you’ll find that the edits and the clarity in applying them comes easily to you.
Let’s find some joy,