I had a really friendly and productive conversation with the editor of my current nonfiction series for an educational publisher this week, and it made me realize something: I’m finally a “writing grownup” when it comes to taking in editorial feedback.
With my early books, I sometimes struggled to really hear editorial feedback. I respected the various editors that I worked with, but there were times it was hard for me to take in their suggestions for change. I too quickly became protective and defensive about my writing, and on occasion that kept me from recognizing that their suggestions were totally on target. So I wasted a lot of time agonizing over how to prove to the editor that she was wrong in her assessment, rather than considering how her suggestions might make my work stronger.
Fortunately for me, my early editors were very patient and professional people! And I was able to adapt on my end, too. As hard as it sometimes was for me, I DID listen to my editors, and I did take their suggestions seriously. And through that process, I came to recognize that creating a good book isn’t a one-woman show: it requires a partnership, and give-and-take is necessary on both sides of the relationship (maybe like a marriage?). Sometimes an author SHOULD go back to the editor with a rationale for why they don’t think the suggested change is the right thing to do—but that should be done from a place of objectivity on the author’s part, not from a place of defensiveness and resistance to change.
So I’ve now established for myself what I call my “24-hour rule.” I read the feedback from my editor as soon as I get it, but I don’t allow myself to respond in any way for at least a day (and sometimes it takes much longer). During that time I can be as defensive and overly emotional in my reactions as I want—but my cat is the only one who hears about it! I don’t get back to the editor until I have been able to objectively evaluate his or her feedback. If she has suggested a change that I don’t think is a good idea, I either come up with a completely new revision suggestion, or I frame a rationale argument for why I believe the change is unnecessary.
In other words, I act like a writing grownup—and I know my books are all the better for it!