Let's face it. That perfect story that you think you've written isn't so perfect after all. Someone, somewhere is likely to find some flaw in it, some way to make it better. Most likely, that will be your editor. But that's the end of my run of bad news—truth is, you want your editor to catch these things, because it will be one less thing for that harsh reviewer to tear apart afterward.
About this time, you're probably edging away from your computer screen, thinking I'm absolutely nuts. After all, why would you want someone to find a flaw in that prized manuscript you hold proudly in your hand? But if anyone's going to do it, you want it to be an editor. Editors, unlike critics and readers, are able to look past the flaws in your story. They are able to see past things that others won't, in order to judge whether or not the story would fit in well with their publishing program.
The good news is, if it does, they'll be banging on your door asking for your story. However, they will also ask you to revise it.
Ah, revisions. The polite way of telling you that everything you thought was spectacular and original and witty in your piece isn't what you thought. Unfortunately, revisions are a necessity if you plan on publishing that brilliant story of yours. They may not be palatable, however.
There are a couple ways you can deal with having to cut things out. In fact, they coincide with the five stages of grief:
1) Denial and Isolation.
During this stage of grief, I tend to look at my story and wince at all the comments made. How could I possibly cut and of these beauties? Sometimes, I closet the manuscript away for a day or two—or even as long as a month if there isn't a pressing deadline to the rewrite. And in fact, I often closet myself away as well. I do this by writing another brilliant piece, but the effect is the same.
How do you combat this stage? The easiest way is to remind yourself that you're making it better. Even if it feels heartbreaking to cut at every little word, once you've finished, you will have crafted a stronger piece. Of course, the easiest way for me to deal with it is to remember that it is a necessary evil in order to see my creation into publication. It does become easier, after that.
When you see some sort of criticism written about your story, it is easy to become angered with the person who wrote it. All too easily, your thoughts can spiral downwards, until you tell yourself that they can't possibly know what they're talking about.
If you're looking to get published, you should probably eject all of those thoughts from your brain now. Assuming you did the legwork and sent your story to a reputable editor at a publishing company that deals in your genre, your editor knows what she (or he!) is talking about. Sure, you might get that one in a million who doesn't—but I think you're more likely to be struck by lightning seven times and win the jackpot for the 649. Editors work to publish stories that readers will read—so if an editor tells you to cut or change something, it most likely is a good idea. Of course, there is always that chance that they are wrong—and that someone else will snap up that story before you can blink—but it comes back to how much you want to see that story in print or e-print. How much do you want to see those dollars roll into your wallet?
Now this stage might be a useful one, and I'm not going to tell you to stifle it right off the bat. Surprised? You shouldn't be. However much I want to see my work in print, I never let it interfere with what I think is right for the story. If you do, you might wind up like some authors—I'm sure all of you have read one or two of these—who sacrifice originality, consistency, and plot in order to gain wads of cash and popularity. There is an inherent sense in all writers about their work. Unless you've already become a bestselling author with a previous work and would like to sacrifice your artistic integrity, I recommend that you listen to your instincts. If it really feels wrong to change something, bring up the issue with your editor! Of course, I am not encouraging you to bring up every little thing, but if it feels monumental to the story, bring it up.
Obviously, sometimes even when you bring up the issue, you may not get your way. That is the point in time when you will have to ask yourself: if so, do I really want to publish this piece here? That is up to you. Not I, nor anyone else, can make that decision for you. But if you are really feeling down about your writing, there are a few ways to keep your spirits up. Keep e-mails and other correspondence from those who have positive things to say about your writing, and re-read them. Surround yourself with friends who also write and go through the same thing. Or you could do what I do—write another story that (for now, at least) lets every ounce of your brilliance shine through.
This is the last stage, and the best one, considering that everything that was detrimental to seeing your story published has now dropped away. At this stage, you can take your pen (or your backspace button) to the page, and work to add the finishing touches to your brilliant work. Often, that pesky voice in your head crying over every changed word has faded. If it hasn't, and you are compromising in order to publish your story, there are ways to deal with that as well.
I like to hold a mourning party. If you have a blog, or even a Twitter account, a simple "RIP Sex Scene" will do. Plus, I always like to promise myself that in a year or two, when the rights revert to me again, I'll post it on the website the way it is meant to be. Then, I get to have it both ways.
Thank you, Clara, for having me, and I hope I've helped all of you overcome your revision blues.
L. K. Below
L. K. Below blogs at lbelow.blogspot.com. Her paranormal romance short story “His Familiar Touch” is set to be released in Cliffhanger Books Paramourtal anthology. Visit her at www.lbelow.com.