Wednesday, May 30, 2007

PH: The Gift of a Spine

Someone asked me last week how I deal with an editor’s criticisms. The question was “Have you ever felt stung by an editor?” So I thought it might be helpful to discuss how as a writer you can mentally prepare for the edit of your manuscript. Christ best modeled what we need so that the work we present can stand: the gift of a supple spine.

Don’t throw tomatoes, but I like rewriting and I love it when the editor has the real zest and vision for my book and the spunk to ask for another rewrite. In part it’s because I worked for too long in a job I hated. Working at home, sliding into a pair of faded denims and a coffee-stained T-shirt is so comforting in a hurry-sick world. But then there’s the fact that I want to get the story right for those who want to lay down the cash to buy it. I hope to never feel uncomfortable with a story bearing my byline. I’m trying to remember if I ever felt stung by an editor. I don’t think I have, but I will admit that when my first edit was returned to me, bleeding like a sacrificial goat, I was surprised at how little I knew.

I think it’s the nature of the beast that we prepare our heart for criticism. There are two possible responses: you can steel your mind or you can soften your heart. “Let he who has an ear, hear. . .” Softening to the criticism or rejection is what Christ did, and of course he was Truth Personified and could see into the dark soul of critics. But he was also our model of humility.

A good editor can serve as the matriarch of your writer’s soul, the mother who warns you there are wolves outside the door. After the book leaves the editor’s desk, there are critics who reject our writings; readers who don’t “get us” in spite of the blood and sweat it took to create our work. And then, dare we say it, there is this shrinking market.

Criticism or outright rejection will always be a part of the process for a writer. But where there is no resistance or opposition, there is totalitarianism. It’s true of governments, of churches, of human hearts, and of kings and writers. A tyrannical author left unchecked leaves behind little more than spineless literature. That is not a legacy. The world needs a legacy. Embrace.

Patty Hickman. Her latest release is entitled Whisper Town, from FaithWords


At 11:05 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thank you for bringing Christ's example to this touchy subject.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger batgirl said...

great post. thanks.

At 1:19 PM, Blogger Julie Carobini said...

It's posts like this that prepared me so well for the editing process. I just received the edit notes for my second book (Truffles by the Sea) and I'm digging it, knowing I'll have a better novel in the end. So thanks, Patricia, and the others before you, for telling it like it is (sorry for the cliche, lol)


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