Dealing with Editorial Feedback

You’ve sent off your manuscript to a freelance editor with pride, excitement, a sense of accomplishment – and, quite likely, at least a bit of trepidation.

Now the manuscript has been returned with the editor’s comments and suggestions, and you’re not quite sure you want to open the attachment in that email.

Your trepidation is natural. I’m sure everyone who has ever sent a manuscript for any sort of feedback has felt those butterflies fluttering around inside.

BUT – and this is important to remember – that editor is on your side. We editors want you to succeed. We want to help you make your manuscript the very best it can be. It is with that spirit of support that we write our comments and give our feedback.

Writers have a deep investment in their writing – not so much a monetary investment as an investment of time, emotion, thought, hopes, dreams. I’m a writer, and I know that there is a lot of my heart goes with each manuscript. So receiving any sort of feedback is a bit scary. We know it’s necessary, but we’d like those reading it to just love our story the way it is – the way we do. Take a deep breath, remember the editor is on your side, and open that email.

I promise there will be positive feedback there, as well as suggestions that will make you think, and will make you realize that even though your manuscript was as good as you thought you could make it, there’s still room for it – and you – to grow. I know that’s the case when I receive feedback on my writing, and I know that’s what I intend as I edit the writing of others.

You may not agree with everything. That’s fine. That’s your prerogative. It’s your manuscript, after all. Some of the feedback may even make you wince a bit at first. That’s where you need to take another deep breath – and set the manuscript and the feedback aside for a little while. You might find you need a day or two for things to settle down in your brain, and for the ideas and suggestions to start percolating in the back of your mind. Allow yourself that time.

After a day or two, take another look at the comments. Maybe more of it makes sense now. Do a few quick fixes. See if anything tweaks your imagination and makes you think “I hadn’t looked at it that way before… hmmmm…” Try a few things that have been suggested. You don’t even need to incorporate them into the manuscript yet – just try them out. See where those ideas might take you. As you become more comfortable with the feedback, go through the manuscript and work through the comments again. If you’re like me, you might find your story taking off in all sorts of ways that you never would have thought possible.

With my editing services, I always offer a question-and-answer session (via email) to clients. If that is offered to you, make use of it. If anything doesn’t make sense to you, if you wonder why a suggestion was made, if you want to explain why you chose to do something the way you did, put all that in your questions. Together, you and your editor can work toward clarity.

As you become more used to receiving editorial feedback, you may find yourself energized by an editor’s comments. I certainly do now. I hope you’ll reach that point, too. Working with a freelance editor is a great way to prepare for working with an agent, or with a publisher’s editor. I know my experience with an editor certainly did that for me.

Relax, enjoy the process as much as you can, and know that this is all designed to make your current manuscript the best it can be, and to hone your writing skills as you continue your journey as a writer.Writ