Do your edits like a grown-up would

This week, we’re supposed to be writing about how to survive an edit letter — which refers to the list of revisions that your editor wants you to make after acquiring your book. I guess it’s hard to make big changes to your manuscript after you’ve sold it, but you should never really be that attached to your story anyway. You should always be open to making it better.

I’ve gone through the revision process many times. Every writer does.

This is one of several folders containing early manuscripts and marked-up drafts of my novel from workshop members and friends

I used to write without ever thinking that anyone would read what I wrote. That’s called having a diary. Once I started to write what I thought would be a novel, my writing became more focused, and I wrote more every day. Form gave my writing a purpose.

Form helps you focus. Writing a novel helped me understand what I wanted to say–and that I wanted to say it to someone other than me.

Commit to your writing as if you already have an agent and editor who are always eager to read your work. But when it comes to the actual creative process, try to forget your agent and editor and write as if nobody is looking.

A scene from THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING first jotted down, messily, in this notebook

I think it can be useful for some people to think about the market and narrowly try to fit their book into that market. But trends in publishing change over time, so don’t write what you think people want to read. Write what you’re being called to. And once the time comes to share your book, don’t be afraid to change it.

The story you have to tell is too important for it to be misunderstood, misread, or put down halfway.  Just like a comedian searching for the perfect punch line to make the audience laugh, you need to search for the right words to make the reader say wow. The only way to do that is to listen when someone gives you suggestions.

Do you like my Halloween nails?

The beauty of having an edit letter is that you can trust that your editor know what works and what doesn’t because they’ve seen it all before. When I was a kid, my mom used to buy me a stuffed animal if I behaved at my doctor’s appointments. It’s not hard to know once you or your editor has diagnosed what’s wrong with your book–it can hurt–like getting a shot. If you want to write an excellent book, you don’t cry about it. You think of the reward waiting on the other side.

A childhood of doctor’s visits
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Stephanie Jimenez

Stephanie Jimenez is a former Fulbright recipient and Prep for Prep alumna. She is based in Queens, New York, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, O! the Oprah Magazine, Entropy, and more. Her debut novel, THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING, will be published in the summer of 2019 (Little A). Follow her @estefsays.