Writing Wednesdays: How to deal with someone else’s edits to your novel

It's hard to share your work - harder still when someone is critiquing and editing it. How do you deal with someone else's edits to your novel? I share a few pieces of advice in this post.

Last week I talked about who should edit your book, and I’ve talked a few times before about editing your book. This isn’t going to be a how-to-edit guide again though. Today, I wanted to talk about how to deal with someone else’s edits to your novel.

Sharing your work is difficult enough. (Although definitely worth it – check out this post on why you should be publishing your book online!)

You’ve poured so much of yourself into this book. So much time and hard work and passion and the thought of someone else reading it can be utterly terrifying. And that’s just someone reading it – never mind them going over it with a critical eye, picking out plot holes or telling you to cut things or saying you need to do more work on a certain character.

Again: this isn’t going to be a how-to-edit. I’m not going to tell you why you can’t afford to be sentimental about things or why you can or anything else.

I’m going to tell you that whoever edited your novel is trying to help.

And they might say some things you don’t want to hear, but they’re not doing it to tear your confidence to shreds. They’re not saying it to be mean or because your book is awful or because you’re a crappy writer. They’re saying these things and making these edits because they want your book to be the best it can be.

Your book is full of potential. Even a second draft can still be pretty rough and need some work. Your editor is just trying to show you all of that potential and help you get to it.

And yeah, I’m gonna say it: you can get too attached to your book. You can get too sentimental about some parts of it and too protective of it. I mean, it’s only natural. But also, you know your story inside out, and that means it’s easy for you to miss something in your novel.

Case in point: Elle, the main character of my first novel The Kissing Booth, is not Caucasian. I always pictured her with dark skin. It was mentioned in the first draft, but whole chapters got cut in editing, and somewhere along the line, any mention of Elle’s skin colour was cut, too. Not intentionally, though. It just would’ve been part of a whole scene. But because I knew my character so well I was absolutely certain it had to be in there somewhere, so I never noticed while I was going over edits that it wasn’t explicitly mentioned anymore.

You need someone else to look at your book. Something might make total sense to you because you’re the writer, the creator, but it may never be clear in the actual book. You need a fresh pair of eyes.

And like I said: they’re just trying to help.

Another thing I want you to remember is that you’re the writer and it’s your story and if you don’t want to make a change, you don’t have to.

If your editor says ‘Cut this whole character,’ ask them why. (They’ll probably tell you, but you can ask for further explanation/input.) It’s your story so you don’t have to take it in a direction you don’t like.

On that note: they’re only giving their opinion. It may well be a professional opinion, and they may make an extremely valid point that will make your story a whole lot better, but it’s still just their opinion. A different editor or person or reader might not see it that way.

There’s no right or wrong when it comes to writing, right?

Possibly the most important thing I’m going to say is that your editor should be someone you can talk to. I know in traditional publishing you don’t necessarily get a choice, but you still need to talk to them. You’re both invested in making this book the best it can be. You both want to work hard at this and you both love the book. So if they suggest something you’re just not feeling, or don’t agree with, just talk to them about it.

For example: in my current WIP, my agent said that two of the character’s storylines were too similar. She made a couple of suggestions but I wasn’t really feeling them. When inspiration struck and I figured out what to do, I asked her if she thought that made more sense and would solve the problem. It’s a conversation. Not somebody dictating to you.

It’s your book. Remember that. And they really are trying to help.

Is there anything you struggle with particularly when it comes to someone else editing your novel? I’d love to hear in the comments or via Twitter!

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