I recently read a thread on facebook about receiving the dreaded edit letter and the hatred, the pain, heartache, and tears it induces. In short, an edit like is the psychopathic killer ready to slice to this shit out of your expectations and pre-conceived notions on what the final version of your book will be like. However, I’m one of those weirdos that LOVE receiving edit letters. I appreciate anything that will at the end of the day help me be a better writer and sell more books! But I totally understand how horrifying they can be. So here’s my ten step process to help you get through it:
1) Open the letter immediately
By the time you receive your editorial letter, it can be up to six months after you first turned in your book (I’ve heard of ten months which is just crazy pants!). All this time waiting will have you on edge that you won’t be thinking straight. So just go ahead and open the letter. Rip the bandaid off.
1A) Remember to read the letter sober.
Just…be sober. Trust me.
2) Go Take a Walk
I’m serious. Send a quick reply, “Received, thanks. Will review!” Close the email and walk away from your computer. Whether the letter is good or bad, walk the fuck away from it. At this stage, the letter is like a knife being chucked at your book baby. And like any good parent, you’re going to want to protect your book baby. You’d throw yourself in front of a thousand knives to keep one word from being harmed. Your defenses and emotions will be high, you don’t want to shoot off at the hip and come across like an asshole. If this question of fight or flight, for your career’s sake, take flight.
3) Do Not Open the Letter For At Least 48 Hours*
Like a good ass steak, you need to let that letter marinate. The longer you let it sit, the tastier it will be.
*This only applies if you’re not under a crazy deadline. Like, your book being due in two weeks.
4) Eat, Drink, Be Merry
Speaking of steak, go have one. A big one. With creamy spinach, cake and ice cream. Then go to a bar, a club, a party, dance your ass off. It’s time to celebrate, because although this letter seems scary as hell and will probably make you upset at times, there are MILLIONS of writers who wish to be in your shoes. Celebrate every step of the publishing process, no matter it’s
5) Watch A REALLY Scary or Funny Movie
I consider this stage a palate cleanser, a refresh button on your thoughts. Once you live through Saw one through five, you’ll feel like you could face anything.
6) Print The Letter Out
Texts, Emails, Books, etc…we’re so used to reading everything on screens, fast and on the go, that we don’t take the time to really process what we’re reading. Plus, having a physical manifestation of the very letter that you fear will help you feel a little more powerful. Hold it with both hands. Look, see? It’s not that scary. Just some words on paper.
7) READ IT TWICE!!!!!!
Do one thorough read of the letter. Highlight and underline parts you need clarification on. Then do another. Reading is fundamental.
8) Practice Gratitude
Remember step 4, there are writers out there who would sacrifice a box of kittens to be in your shoes. And your editor, no matter his or her tenure, is a certifiable pro in the industry. So be thankful that these notes are ultimately going to make your book not only better but sellable.
9) Request a chat
Sometimes, it’s best to just talk shit out. Ask for a quick thirty minute chat with your editor to go over any questions you may have about the letter. The last thing you want to do is misconstrue a suggestion, then spend hours revising the book, all for it to be wrong.
10) There is no ‘i’ in team
Your editor may make suggestions that will break your heart. Like, chopping entire scenes, characters, or the last 100 pages of your beautiful book baby. It will feel like losing a limb. You’ll want to fight back, you’ll want to say no. Take a moment to really process what your editor is asking of you. Maybe share the letter with your writing partner, beta reader, or agent for a sanity check. Change is hard but is what your editor asking of you THAT terrible? If you really feel strongly, have an honest discussion about it. Even though you’re the author, books are a TEAM effort so you’re going to have to compromise. Be prepare for that.
At the end of the day, there is a method to the madness. It will be rough, but trust the process and the journey. 🙂