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Another gem from Nathan Bransford in regards to responding to a manuscript critique:

“If you find yourself getting mad it’s probably because your editor/critique partner is right.”

Thankfully, the editorial process for my first two books was relatively simple.  Both were “light edits” (my editor’s words) and I adored the person with whom I was working.  But it’s the process that I go through with my agent (which most assuredly makes the editorial process easier) that can give rise to the occasional spout of anger to which Bransford describes.  

As I read through Taryn’s notes on a manuscript for the first time, I find myself engaging in a heated, inner dialogue with her.  I assign tone to her comments.  I fire back mental retorts to her critique.  I question her ability to understand my point of view.  I openly mock her suggestions. 

Please understand: I adore Taryn a great deal.  I have no animosity toward her.  In fact, I think she is wonderful and downright brilliant.  A complete professional.  But that initial reading of her commentary and critique can be tough, even when she likes most or almost all of what I have written.  I labor over every sentence until I think it is perfect, so to say otherwise isn’t easy for me to accept at first.

Even though I know it’s not realistic, my secret hope is that Taryn will declare the manuscript a work of genius, and to alter it in anyway would be blasphemy.

This, however, has yet to happen, so instead, I feel annoyed, wounded, and angry as I finish reading her critique.           

Then I walk away.  I take a shower.  I go to the gym.  I play some golf.  I read a book or watch a ballgame.  My wife and I go out to dinner.  As I am doing these things, Taryn’s insidious suggestions begin to take root in the fetid soil of my mind.  They work on me the way a masseuse works on a sore muscle, exerting painful but necessary pressure on my thoughts.  Before long, I find myself begrudgingly agreeing with her suggestions, even though every fiber of my being wants to reject her commentary as sheer lunacy. 

Eventually, I return to the laptop and begin revising my manuscript, adhering to most, if not all, of her suggestions.  And by then it’s easy, because Taryn’s suggestions are typically spot on.  I just need time to accept my fallibility and the imperfection of my story.  And eventually I do.   Any animosity that I had felt toward her is washed away by appreciation for having such a smart, talented and insightful person in my life. 

At the end of the day, Taryn Fagerness may refer to herself as a literary agent, but in reality, she is a writer and editor above all else, and my stories are better because of it.

She gets me. 

And my mental version of Taryn, the one that I berate and belittle as I read through her suggestions for the first time, always finds forgiveness in her heart for a writer who doesn’t always see the light upon first glance.