The Seven Stages Of Editing Grief

red-inked manuscript

(C) 2008 Nic McPhee, used under Creative Commons

I got back the edits on Holland Bay last week. As promised, they were brutal. I read the notes first. You should always read the notes first so you know where the editor thinks you should go. It also puts the line edits in perspective and helps spark ideas of alternative changes.

But a lot of writers are afraid of edits. I get it. If there are a lot of Track Changes comments or red ink in the manuscript, along with major structural changes in the suggestions, a writer’s first instinct is to curl up in the fetal position and cry. It’s a lot of work. Just going through proofreading can be daunting. And I sent out a 90,000 word police procedural. Can you imagine if I wrote long honkin’ tales like George R.R. Martin?

“Chapter 12 not bloody enough. Could you please kill of a dozen more characters to elevate the tension a little?”

And the last two novels in The Song of Ice and Fire promise to be about 1500 pages a piece.

I’ve been there. Corrections and suggestions come as a blow to the ego. At the same time, you need an editor, especially if you are an independent author. No writer can edit themselves. And yet, we rebel, especially on that first novel. What happens is what I like to term as the Seven Stages of Editing Grief.

Stage 1: Shock & Denial: No! No! No! You got it wrong! You just don’t understand what I’m trying to do!

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt: I’m a bad writer! I should scrap this and take up scrap-booking.

Stage 3: Anger: You’re just jealous! You butchered my baby!

Stage 4: Depression: I am never going to be able to fix all this.

Stage 5: The Upward Turn: Hmm… Maybe I don’t need that character after all.

Stage 6: Working Through: OK, let’s rewrite that weak scene and figure out how to drop that chapter.

Stage 7: Acceptance: Ah! Ready to publish.

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3 thoughts on “The Seven Stages Of Editing Grief

  1. I actually just finished a massive revision in which I had that very notion of ‘are there characters I can cut?’ Don’t know where I read it, that an editor might well tear the shit out of a manuscript and characters you thought you loved could simply evaporate once they were done with it.

    First I rebelled. Then I thought, maybe if I do that first…? Wasn’t so bad in this novel, but in one of my others. I could see the fetal position in my future.

  2. Another key thing is knowing the difference between #1 and an editor who just doesn’t get your vision for the story. I always give it a day or so to sink in to get through that Stage 1 and make sure that’s what it is. Good luck!

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