Always find going through editorial comments to be a soul-searing experience

Am going through the editorial comments for my next book. This should be the last round of substantive edits, so it’s time to fix all the little stuff: the moments that don’t feel right or don’t ring true or might possibly offend somebody (I also need to iron out one of the major relationships in the book, but this post isn’t about that).

As my parents are happy to tell you, I’ve never been good at taking criticism. I get really defensive, really quickly, and it takes a lot of soft-pedaling to get me to listen. I’ve started to get better, both when it comes to my writing and my personal life. I’ve become a very good reviser: I’m willing to completely reimagine or rewrite a book if that’s what I think it needs. But in order to get to the point where I’ve integrated somebody’s feedback, I need to go through a week-long (sometimes weeks-long) simmering down period. And even then it’s not unusual for me to feel burned or defensive.

I’ve also gotten a lot of unhelpful feedback in my life (not from my current editor, thankfully). Ironically, the best criticism comes from people who love your book the most. If somebody’s not on board for the fundamental experience of your book, then they’re not gonna give you good criticism. Like you can’t revise Catcher in the Rye to make Holden less whiny, because that whininess is at the core of the book. 

But it’s a little unreasonable for me to wince at a little comment that’s like, “Didn’t they just shower; why are they wearing the same clothes as before?” 

It’s just odd to have my own invulnerability punctured. Like getting called out for saying something insensitive or factually incorrect, there’s nothing inherently bad about it, but there’s a certain level of exposure–the sense that people can see my real self, and it’s not a great sight–that causes difficulty. But whatever, you’ve got to do it, and in the end the book is better for it. 

P.S. I looked hard for a THREE DOLLAR CLASSIC today, but didn’t find one that looks cool. This Penguin Classics edition of two Nutcracker stories (by Alexander Dumas and by 19th German tale-teller ETA Hoffman)  is on sale though. I love Penguin Classics, and they don’t go on sale very often. I sort of buy them very reflexively whenever they’re under three bucks. If you want more THREE DOLLAR CLASSICS, sign up for my email list

2 thoughts on “Always find going through editorial comments to be a soul-searing experience

  1. J-Bo

    I always wondered how authors always seem to take editorial letters in such stride. I’m always just silently hoping that my critique partners will tell me everything is perfect as is. This is validating- thanks.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      ME TOOOOOO!!! But then they usually don’t. I think most writers do not take editorial feedback well, whether they respond w/ injured pride or w/ shame, there’s almost always an element of hurt.

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