Pride and Publication

I’ve just received “notes” from my editor. These “notes”–a euphemism if ever there was one–begin with exuberant praise for the book I’ve written. Apparently it’s a marvelous novel, original, salable, and charming. This flattery achieves its desired effect. I am beaming and bursting with pride for what has been established by an editor of a venerable and world-renowned publishing house as a thoroughly delightful piece of writing.

Then come the “notes”. These are, actually, commands. Six single-spaced pages in agate type suggesting–that is, suggesting very strongly–that I modify the characters, alter their relationships, change the story, eliminate key scenes, shift the point of view, select a different theme, and write a new ending. Voila, that’s all! Oh, and have it back in 8 weeks, okay?

Hey, I’m not complaining. After all, I’m being pubished. After 30 books, that’s still a miracle, given the degree of competition (Is there anyone in America these days who isn’t writing a novel?). But I am trying to make a point, and that point is that we can’t escape criticism, even from people who love our work.

Nor should we want to. Criticism illuminates the areas where our stories are weak. If it’s intelligent criticism, it points us in a direction we can take to make our work better. Even if the criticism is rude, crude, and meant to hurt us personally, there will be at least a grain of truth in it.

That’s really the only difference between self-published authors and paid novelists: One can get away with a “good enough” first draft and, for his money, then gets to strut around with his pride intact. The other (of which I am one, so I’ll use the feminine gender here) subjects herself to seemingly endless rewrites, trusting the people who chose to publish her, putting her pride in check for the purpose of producing the best book possible.

And that, I believe, is why we get published in the first place.

As to the personal wounds inflicted: eh. We all know the world is full of a-holes. Let that go. Take only what is said about your work seriously, because that’s the only thing you really need to pay attention to.

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