Last Friday I got the coronavirus manuscript back from my editor. I quickly looked at the comments. There were 100 so I couldn’t read them closely but I wanted to let her know if I had any big questions or concerns. After I e-mailed her back, I walked away. And that’s my first piece of advice to you–
Walk away. What? You expected me to say that I got right to work? Nope. My first piece of advice is to read through everything, or listen to what the person has to say, and then walk away. Even if you can see the benefit of very comment, you’re going to need some time to simply exist with the recommendations. You need to let things settle before you get to work.
Don’t cruise through on autopilot. Remember that you don’t have to make absolutely every change. Sometimes my editor just wants more information if it is available. If it isn’t, then I just tell her that. Sometimes she asks for a change that for some reason doesn’t work. Sure, I could just make it. After all, she’s the editor. But I often look at why she wants the change. What doesn’t work? Then I try to come up with something better.
Ask questions. Sometimes I look at a request and think, “What? I have no clue what you just said.” Sometimes this is because I am simply too close to the material. This is the time to take a short break. I walk. I clean something. I read the comment aloud. And if I still don’t get it, I send her an e-mail.
Rewriting is hard. I have an especially difficult time with complex changes because we send the manuscript back and forth with track changes on. I’m dyslexic so having highlighted text and text that is struck out along with regular text is super distracting. With a big change, I will copy the comment into a new document, write the new paragraph(s) and then paste it into the old document. The original text is still there, struck out, and the new text is highlighted, but I don’t have to look at it through the whole writing process.
Especially when you are working with comments from an agent or editor, it is important to remember that you are all on the same team. You want to make a great book. You may need to come up with a trick like this one to make things easier for yourself, but it will be worth your time when you create a book that sings.