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.