As writers, we love what we do. Let’s face it – if we weren’t passionate about it, would we pour our hearts and souls onto page after page, into book after book, not knowing if anyone else will share our passion? Of course not.
We also tend to fall in love with our prose. Our phrasing, word choice, settings, and characters mean something to us and can weave their way into our hearts. While that’s a good thing in one way (after all, if we don’t love our work, who will?), it can be a drawback if an agent or editor recommends necessary modifications that our hearts aren’t willing to make.
I witnessed this first-hand a couple of years ago.
A fellow writer friend submitted her manuscript to an editor who had good connections to some promising agents. This editor had her finger firmly on the pulse of the publishing industry, so her input was extremely valuable, especially to a previously unpublished author. Her expertise and ability to connect writers with agents were reflected in her rates – she didn’t come cheap.
This writer decided that if she seriously wanted to get published “the old fashioned way” instead of indie publishing, it would be worth the editor’s fee. She submitted her manuscript and waited anxiously for its return so she could make her revisions and get her work between a couple of hard covers.
When the manuscript came back, she found more corrections, modifications, and recommendations for changes than she expected. Way more. She flew into a rage as she read through her edited work, accusing the editor of being “too nitpicky” and of trying to change her voice.
It wasn’t true. The editor was just doing her job, and she was doing it well. Those changes, suggestions, and recommendations were critical to the improvement of her book, but the writer didn’t want to hear it. She had fallen in love with her words to the point where she just couldn’t break up with them – she kept reading passages aloud and arguing that they couldn’t be changed without destroying the tone of her story.
In the end, her book never got published. She submitted it over and over to various agents and then directly to publishing houses with no success. While most sent generic rejection letters, a few agents took the time to give her basic reasons why the book wasn’t salable, and all of those reasons coincided with the editor’s edits.
Sometimes we writers have to face the emotionally difficult task of doing some tough surgical edits to improve our manuscripts. That writer’s beloved novel now sits in a bottom drawer collecting dust, whereas if she’d accepted a little “tough love”, she could already have been a household name.