Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Killing children, not just babies

The people who contact Taryn and I for our Teen Eyes editing service tend to be very receptive to criticism. After all, that's what they're paying us for, right? I've been pleasantly surprised by their responses to my feedback, and amazed at their maturity.

Let's face it. Getting criticism sucks. It's great in the long run, but the moment when you read a note pointing out a major plot flaw in your manuscript, or a note condemning one of your characters, can be one of the most difficult moments to bear in your writing career. I've done a fair amount of revisions with both my agent and my editor, so I'm here to tell you now:

It doesn't get better.

You won't just be killing babies; you'll be killing children, teenagers, even, fully formed scenes and subplots and perhaps even characters.

Editing is a ruthless process. With LIKE CLOCKWORK, I cut several major subplots, drastically reduced the role of one character and increased that of another, and added a subplot that entirely changed the story. And I'm only on the first round of revisions. Nothing in a manuscript is fixed; as authors, we cannot get attached to our initial vision of a story, because it will invariably change with time, distance, and feedback. It's something I struggle with constantly, although I'm always happy with the result of my revisions.

So ask yourself: can you handle this? Can you handle killing your babies and children and teenagers? If you're serious about publication, the answer should be yes.

Revision sucks. We push through. And in the end, our books come out that much awesomer (which is not a word, but I'm using it anyway).


  1. Yeah, totally agree. Although I think it does get easier but that's because I get edited alot in my day job, so I expect it. Especially easier, when the edits make complete sense and are logically backed up. I'm often dying for the critcism so I can improve - no one wants a piece of work going out that isn't the best. How embarrasing it would be if it flopped!

    I don't feel it's killing my baby so much, but as if I'm the parent, guiding and shaping the story to be the best it can be. Just like a child - we have to stamp out the bad bits, right :)

  2. Thanks so much for your honesty in this. It's something we as writers really have to face. I'm seriously rethinking one of my novels now and realize it needs a lot of work.

    Great blog!

  3. Very true. I'm working on my first revision since anyone else read my book, and I understand what it feels like. Great post!