So, there you are, minding your authorly business.
You may or may not be refreshing your inbox more than is strictly necessary because you are expecting An Email. You may or may not be putting off all other tasks by watching old Strong Bad Email videos. You may or may not be eating lots of cheese.
One of those thoughtless, knee-jerk refreshes summons forth from the cyberabyss An Email. Yes, That One.
It’s your edit letter. From your editor. An edit letter from your editor, who is editing that book you wrote.
At first, you stare at it. You don’t breathe much.
This hot, panicky feeling starts spiraling up from your bowels. You break out in a feverish sweat.
In a frenzy, you start texting/calling/emailing/IMing everyone you know, whilst tweeting and posting to Facebook cryptic declarations of angst, whilst rotating between 1) digging through the cabinets for food, 2) nervous bathroom activity, and 3) every other task you have been putting off in favor of waiting for this letter, each of which is now infinitely more appealing than opening said letter.
None of these people you’ve texted/called/emailed/IMed **understand** what you’re going on about except for your fellow writers. You cling to them like those foam peanut things cling to every available surface, or like bad luck clings to the Stark family.
It starts out nicely, with a greeting from your editor. “Hay gurl!” the editor says. You smile fondly. “Oh, Editor,” you think. “You old so-and-so, you.”
The editor goes on to say how much he/she enjoyed the book, and how this character is awesome, and this part was really flippin’ cool, etc. This makes you feel a bit warm and fuzzy inside. “Oh, Editor,” you think. “LET’S GET CUPCAKES.”
Then you continue reading, and here’s where things get dicey, because the editor has softened you up, see, only to shortly thereafter RIP YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO BLOODY SHREDS (with bone bits hanging off of them!).
Said ripping can come in various ways. Perhaps via bullet points, or notes in the manuscript itself, or plain old paragraphs exhaustively detailing your book’s every flaw. Regardless of method, the point is that you are stupid and that thing called logic, that you thought your book was so full of? Yeah, it’s not, and you don’t have it. And your editor is probably laughing at you somewhere with all the other editors over vodka and macarons, and wondering what it is with writers that they can’t write books that make sense. Or at least, this one writer. You, that is. YOU can’t write a book that makes sense. (You realize, at this point, that your brain is going to unrealistically dramatic places, BUT YOU CAN’T STOP IT. You feel that stupid.)
At the end of your letter, a bajillion bullet points of things to fix later, there might be another little note from your editor, to soften the sting of what you have just read. Something like, “No, seriously! I really liked it!” And you KNOW that’s the case because your editor doesn’t owe you anything, and if your book blew chunks, your editor would tell you.
But it’s hard to pick yourself up from that overwhelmed little pool of stress and embarrassment. You wish that you could have written a better book from the start.
You, yes, probably eat more cheese. Or you eat ANYTHING, really.
You sleep. Part of you wants to dive right into revisions, but you know that’s a bad idea. That’s not how a winner plays skee-ball. Besides, once all that adrenaline’s left you, you kind of feel like a wrung-out banana peel. So, you sleep. And you probably dream of mangled manuscripts chomping on your nether bits, Editor cheering them on.
Then you wake up. The world has not ended. In fact, the world has kept on going, and the edit letter is still sitting on your computer, and you’ve still written a book good enough to get an editor, and that’s something, isn’t it? You can’t be entirely stupid, then.
So you open the letter back up. Maybe you even give your editor a call.
You take a deep breath. You print out your edit letter. You divide up all the bullet points and comments and questions into groups, and decide to work on only a little bit every day because that is what sane people do.
Then, you start to work.
Revisions are hard at first, and scary. But you take them one bullet point at a time, and pretty soon, just like with anything, you get into a groove. You see your manuscript getting shinier right before your eyes, and it’s kind of like when you start working out, and you’re doing squats and bicep curls and tricepfloodles and your body is like, “STOP IT I WILL DO ANYTHING PLEASE STOP IT STOP IT STO — oh wait, I see, this is actually quite nice and now I look hot.”
Yes, it’s like that. Because your book is getting better, bullet point by bullet point. You answer your editor’s insightful questions and start making smart changes to your manuscript, and it’s almost — almost — as though your editor likes you and your book and wants what’s best for both of you. It’s almost as though your editor doesn’t in fact think you’re stupid, but rather thinks you’ve written something really great, and knows how to make it even greater.