Book Editing: Take it With a Light Heart
By Natalie Hunter
Receiving a finished edit from an editor can be a harrowing experience. The very heart of your manuscript can seem to have been ripped out still beating, or sometimes the shame of having a page covered in notes and red ink can make you want to disappear. It is tough to take edits with a light heart when you put so much work into a piece of writing, whether you are designing course materials for online schools or writing your autobiography. However, writers and educators have to overcome the stress so they can keep on working.
One way of taking edits lightly is to look at them for what they truly are. Edits are not editors' attempts at murdering creativity. Editors are not soul crushing word police, either. The fact of the matter is that edits/editors are necessary to make a book or article widely marketable. A writer may not be able to see redundancies, grammar mistakes, etc. because they are so close to their material. What writers think are indispensable, brilliant turns of phrase, an impartial eye may recognize as overkill. Readers would likely see it that way as well. That is why editors are really the superheroes of the writing industry. Whether you are trying to publish a novel, news article, children's book or teaching resource, it may not be possible without edits.
A huge source of the anxiety that comes from edits is a sense of incompetence. Writers often feel like their work was sub par because it came back with major edits, and that they should just scrap the whole thing and start over. This is not necessarily the case. If you feel yourself getting down because of edits, take a deep breath and remember that you wouldn't be getting anything back if your work was that bad. It is also important to remember that even the most popular writers in the world are recipients of the occasional dreaded slash and burn edits. Even J.R.R. Tolkien, a notoriously meticulous writer who was a language expert in many respects, needed edits.
Receiving extensive book editing does not mean that you are an awful writer, nor that your ideas are worthless. Even knowing these facts though doesn't necessarily relieve the stress you feel when you get it back. Using anxiety relief methods might help in this case. Before you read the edits, imagine the returned manuscript or article is chock full of edits, but that you are okay with them. Imagine yourself reading the edits once and then getting back to work on something else. Using this mental imagery can lower your expectations when you actually do get to the article, and then the edits won't seem nearly so bad. Do this every time you have edits and it will help to break the cycle of anger and stress.
Writing is a passion and an art form, but is also a job, just like any other. Do your best not to take book editing personally. Then, revising your book or resource will be that much easier. In the end, it’s important to view edits in the light they are meant and not to resist the benefit they will bring to your article or manuscript. Sure, you can debate some edits, sometimes the author does know best, but it is important to understand that they are usually for the good of your work, not a direct attack on your ability as a writer.
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