Friday, January 17, 2014

Be Fearless: This is Preparation

How is an editor different than a critique partner?

Someone asked me this question awhile ago, and it's a really good one!

As in the last post (where I gave details about my revision process so far), I have to preface by saying that my experience might be vastly different from other writers'. So, take my thoughts with a sprinkle of salt.

There are a lot of similarities between a good critique partner and an editor. I have nothing but utmost respect for my critique partners. I value their opinion and take everything they say seriously. The biggest difference, then, is how my critique partners and I interact with each other. I send them my work (or vice versa), they critique it, and leave opportunity for me to ask for questions and clarification afterward. But I don't send the same story repeatedly until it's perfect.

With my editor, though, we went through revisions until he was happy with the product. I never felt a responsibility to make my critique partners happy with my books. I knew they would feel fulfilled in a sense, just as I feel fulfilled when I'm able to help them meet their goals, but there's still a certain degree of separation with a critique partner that's not there with an editor. My editor respects my space as an author, but he also shares a vision with me for the book, and we work toward that vision as a team.

With that said, my experience with my excellent critique partners prepared me well to work with my editor. I was already used to getting lots and lots of comments, long "editorial" letters, nit-picky corrections (yay for critique partners who are as anal as I am!). I was used to ripping my books completely apart. Heck, in a couple instances, after sending something off to a crit-buddy, I had started ALL OVER AGAIN.

I'm convinced that's why the ten-page editorial letter my editor sent me wasn't too overwhelming, because I had forced myself, in my pre-published days, to be fearless.

YES, take out that huge chunk of writing you love. The book is better without it!

YES, keep reworking and reworking and reworking that scene until it flows so smoothly you stop noticing the writing and feel only the feelings.

YES, start again. It's not the end of the world. And the new story will be one hundred times cleaner.

When you get used to cutting your work into tiny pieces and sewing them back together, you eventually learn the sheer beauty of revision. So, when an editor comes at you with MAJOR changes, you can skip the nervous breakdown and get to work.

That's why I'm glad for the gift of my years and years of rejection, because I learned to be a writer.

I hope this blog post doesn't come across as cocky. Notice that I mentioned WORK. I didn't sing and dance my way through the editorial letter. I had to let everything my editor told me sink in over several days. I had to think a lot. I had to rework and write a lot of new stuff. It was work and it was a challenge. The point is, I felt prepared.

How do you interact with your critique partners? If you have an editor, did you feel prepared to work with him or her? I'd love to hear your story! 

Photo credit: DarrenHester from


  1. Great post! I love my critique partners, but you are right. I am in no way obligated to listen to anything they say. That said, I usually do because they have a view of my work I can't have. In fact, I just finished turning 9 pages into 18 because of my critique partners. They are so essential to the process, I can't imagine doing this without them. Hopefully I'll be prepared to work with an editor when the time comes.

    But I have to admit, the thought of a ten page editorial letter still feels overwhelming to me. :)

  2. You nailed it. It's work. Even with my critters. Gah! Don't you wish it were easier sometimes? I do. But without my critters, I wouldn't have my editors, who are a LOT more exacting, which is what I want.

  3. A ten page editorial letter doesn't sound scary at all, not after having Krista for a critique partner. :o) But my manuscripts are longer than yours.

    Revising is work, but it's rewarding to see improvement.

  4. I just had the experience of stitching with an editor. Both wonderful and terrifying. Time and Forever, written as Susan B James comes out next week. Again, both wonderful and terrifying,

  5. Love the tip about being fearless when working with an editor or crit partner! You definitely have to be unafraid to do the hard things to make the story better!

  6. Great advice!
    Becoming a published author is such a journey. It stretches us along the way. Thanks for sharing.