I’ve already submitted a post about the level of editing I’ve been enjoying for my novel Bone Songs, to be published in 2017. I don’t think I would have received such intense feedback if the novel had been published by a large press. While I’m extremely grateful for my publisher/editor’s attentiveness, at times I also feel overwhelmed by the number of comments she’s made that often go beyond suggestions and feel as if she’s taking over my manuscript. It’s a delicate balancing act on her part and on mine.
But her observations also are forcing me to reconsider or question aspects of the work that I have felt were finalized. That is the most painful part: as someone who has knitted in a past life, this process reminds me of what happens if you slip a stitch. The knitter can’t just keep going. She has to return to the place where the error occurred and start over from that point. It’s not a happy move. Yet ultimately, it will give a finished garment that looks professional, not something marred by many snags and snarls.
I’ve had to put my own role as writer aside and let the work itself have prominence. Otherwise, my ego gets too involved in the outcome and I won’t heed valuable criticisms that will improve the overall product.
Fine-tuning a novel takes not only an enormous amount of time but it also requires tremendous patience. Passages that had made perfect sense to me originally take on an opacity when viewed through an attentive reader’s periscope. Novel writers need to be prepared for this kind of scrutiny. We may feel we’ve hit all of the notes in our many drafts, but we also need to recognize our limitations.
It requires a skilled reader to help us see what we’ve missed. And humiliating as that may be, it’s an essential part of the writing craft. Being able to take good criticism and make it part of the final product.