I got my first ever edits on my first ever book today.
They were sent from an amazing, professional YA published author and editor, and the only person who has read the beginning, ugly first draft of my story. I got her email last night, but I was crazy tired, and decided that I would be more receptive if I read it after a good night’s sleep.
I’m reading it now. I’m tentatively excited. Part of me wants it to be an instant, perfect hit. The other part is practical. Like, “Em, this is your first messy draft. Slow down, killer. It’s gonna suck. If she says anything nice at all… bonus! But girl, you know you need more experience. You’re like a book baby.”
Still, l’m crazy excited. I love writing and would do it whether or not someone paid me. In fact, right now, I’m paying someone to help me do it. Someone who’s done this before. Someone I can trust. Someone who can keep me accountable and organized. I’ve learned that it is 100% worth it to get help from professionals when you want to do something but have no ideas or confidence to get started, or how to keep going, or how to grow.
Right now, reading her feedback, I feel like I’m protecting these sensitive, deep-down soft spots. I’m worried that I’ll take the feedback personally, and my feelings might get trampled. I’m worried I’ll feel attacked as a person. However, I know this isn’t about me. It’s about a story, it’s about good writing, and it’s about sharing and using my skills.
The great lie that keeps us away from trying or putting ourselves out there: If ____ isn’t good, if ____ isn’t perfect, then I am not good. Then I am worthless, so I shouldn’t try at all.
The great truth is: Just because ____ isn’t great right now, doesn’t mean that I’m not a great person. It just means that ____ isn’t great right now. And that’s okay. That is something I can work on.
I’m choosing to focus on the truth. In stead of “this is an attack on me; she hates this” I’ve switched to “This is awesome and so helpful. I need this and I’m so grateful” thoughts. Instead of feeling like I’m getting beat up, I’m choosing to feel like I’m being helped.
Changing my mindset and thoughts is most often not an instantaneous BAM! moment. It’s more like a tug-o-war battle. Every time the tough part comes up and I get pulled into negative thinking, I have to fight and pull back to the positive, and remember why I’m doing this. Most often, it sounds like “Listen, girl, this is good stuff. You asked for this constructive criticism. You gotta grow, and this is how you do it. This hard, tough stuff will make you better. Take it in, listen, and learn. Be open to it. Look at it with curiosity.”Sometimes I even write it down on a note card and keep it nearby. NBD.
It’s like a pep-talk selfie. In fact, I already feel better, and prepped for battle. This is exciting, and the beginning of something GREAT. I’m going to keep writing while I go through this experience. Since it’s my first baby, I feel like I will want to remember these days, and revisit them fondly. After all, “they grow so fast.”
I’m going to record my editors compliments, too, as they are things I can cling to when I feel like a terrible writer. Like a good hair cut, there is nothing like a little confidence boost from time to time.
She starts like this:
“This is a fantastic first packet. Your character study was unique and compelling—and really quite funny—and your plot was full of interesting twists and solid stakes. Also, the world building in this is vivid. I really enjoyed your pages, and I’m glad you’re ready to dive in with the writing.”
She takes her time, gently listing and explaining the areas that I need to work on, things like more in-scene writing, and less narrative writing and frame language.
“Okay, so all writing craft aside, I think this is a wonderful start. It’s charismatic and funny, and feels unique—which in YA is tough!”
She gives me the choice to re-work these first few chapters or continue to write the story. I love that I have options. 🙂 I will probably do both as I have a solid week of travel (with no kids!) coming up in a few days. I’m going to ask her if she thinks that’s a good approach.
She then concludes with:
“Happy writing! Oh, make sure your track changes are on so that you can see the my minor notes in the margins. Most of them are just cheering you on. The more advanced your pages, the more I will make notes in the margins, and the less I’ll write via an editorial letter…”
All of her notes in my first chapters are super uplifting stuff. A few of my favorite comments are: “Fantastic sense of humor here. It’s quite confident.” and “Excellent stakes. You have a knack for this!” and finally, “AH! I love this already. Such a good narrator voice. Charming and honest.” She then throws in a bunch of “Intriguing!” and LOLs and smiley faces. I know this is intentional, that she wants me to keep up my enthusiasm and feel good about my work before I get to the harder edits. Definitely cheerleading.
I’m cool with that. Who doesn’t like compliments and encouragement, genuine or nah? Like a baby, I’m gonna need quite a bit of reassurance, coddling, and hand-holding before life sets in.