We have all been there.
You send your critique to someone, and, like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, you imagine the person exclaiming in delight over your book. You imagine them dismissing all other manuscripts as trash and declares yours a shining example of literature.
Then you get it back.
It is covered in red from track changes. Words like “underdeveloped” and “not engaging” are thrown around.
You want to throw your book in a large bonfire. Or you want to crawl under the covers and never come out. Or you want to go through your house breaking all the pencils and smashing your computer so you don’t torture the world with your voice again.
Don’t do any of those things. You are okay. You and your story are going to be just fine.
The first step when you receive a manuscript covered with red ink is to take a deep breath. Let’s go crazy and take several. Most likely, the person giving the critique is trying to help you. I can almost promise you that he or she is not cackling as he or she reads your work. If so, they are a hater, and you can whip your hair at him or her like Willow Smith.
After you have read all the comments (I know it is super tempting to stop at the first less than favorable comment), step away from the manuscript and the notes. Take a few days to a few weeks. It takes a while to process the information. It might take a while to figure out how to fix the development of that one character or fill in that plot hole. Heck, it might take that time to figure out how much of the critique you want to accept and what you want to disregard. (Remember, it is just one person’s opinion.) HOWEVER, be sure not to immediately dismiss everything he or she said. I am sure some, if not most, of the points are good. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It might help you understand the edits!
If you are unsure what to keep and disregard, get a few other people to read your draft. This is always a balancing act. You don’t want TOO many opinions, but it is good to get more than one. Make sure you are really intentional with it. You want to make sure the people you hand it to are discerning and honest with you. Also, some people are better at some things than others. Maybe your husband is great at characters while your BFF is great at plot points. Of course, you should send your work to an editor who can cover it all. 🙂 (I am nice, I swear.)
After you sorted through it all, then perform your edits bit by bit. I know some people who edit a chapter at a time. I know others who first focus on plot, then character, and then voice. Do whatever works for you. It might take a bit of trial and error.
To be honest, I think the revision part is the most painful part of the whole writing process. It is usually much more fun writing a rough draft. You are high off of creation. When it comes to revision, it is time to face the cold, hard facts. There is a huge plot hole in chapter six or your protagonist doesn’t have a clear motivation. That can be hard to take.
That is why self-care is so important. Treat. Yo. Self. If you have edited a chapter, watch your favorite movie. Finally figured out how to add dimension to your antagonist? Go buy a new outfit. Basically, take Mary Poppins’ advice, and get a spoon full of sugar to help make the medicine go down.
Also, your mindset is HUGE. It is important to remember why you are writing your book. Do you want to warn people about cyberbullying? Give people hope for redemption? If you think of something bigger than yourself, your wounded ego won’t stop you from carrying on.
Finally, everyone gets a tons of edits on their first draft (even people like Hemingway–he edited endings over 30 times sometimes). It is called a draft for a reason. This whole process will only make you a stronger writer. And isn’t that the goal?
How do you handle the revision process? Tell me in the comments below.