Monday, June 14, 2010

Who Do You Listen To?

It seems like everyone is asking this question lately. I went to my agent Rachelle's blog, like I do each morning, and there it was. Dealing With Contradictory Feedback. A timely topic for many of us writers. There was some lamenting about contests, how it's all so subjective. I agree. My issue with contests is simply that. And unless you make it to the final round, you have no idea who's 'judging' your work.
I'm pretty selective about who reads my stuff. I'm hoping I won't always have this luxury, but for now, while I'm still an unpublished nobody, I pick and choose carefully, and I usually specify the type of feedback I'm looking for.
Sometimes I'll need to take it a step further and pay for a professional edit.
I've done this a couple of times now. I admit to being slightly masochistic.
The great thing about free critiques is that you can take it or leave it, and it costs you nothing.
But when you've forked out a pile of cash and you're getting some advice that pinches a little, or in this case, a lot, you really can't ignore it. Well, you can, but then you're out a chunk a change with no return for your investment, right?
I look at it this way. Let's say you get a publishing contract, the editor comes back and says something like this, "We love the story, you just need to work on the first 200 pages. Again."
Ouch. She can't possibly mean those 200 pages I've spent the last year agonizing over, right? She must mean those other 200 pages. And then you remember that your book is really only 250 pages long.
What do you do? Call up your agent and retract the contract? Why not? Obviously this publisher just doesn't 'get you' and has missed the entire point of your book.
Ha. That would be the stupidest thing anyone could do. Unless the publisher was bogus, chances are they know a lot more about publishing than I do, and I'd take that editor's advice. I might not like it, and hopefully there would be some wiggle room, but at the end of the day, I'd have to believe I was going to end up with a better book.
I'm facing a huge challenge right now with a manuscript I've worked on for years. Today has not been a good day. It's all my own doing because I refuse to let it go. I definitely asked for this.
Did I mention the masochistic thing?
Part of me wants to flush the advice I'm getting down the toilet. It's not that it isn't good advice.
Just the opposite. But it's challenging, and scary as hell. I don't know if I can get to the places I need to get to in order to make this work. And people tell me it's already working. I could send it as is to a publisher who's expressed interest, without making any changes, and see what happens.
But would I be sending the best book I can produce?
So what to do?
Who to listen to?
Here comes the hard question.
Did I sign up for this to be flattered and told I've written a best seller that must be published immediately? Or did I go in with my eyes open, truly wanting to figure out why this book isn't going anywhere and what I might be able to do about it? The answer goes back to the first point.
Publishers aren't stupid. Neither are agents or editors, freelance or otherwise.
Your friends and family aren't stupid either, they're readers and they can tell you what they like and don't like, but unless they're up there in the publishing world, their advice isn't going to get you that first advance.
I want to listen to the professionals. I really do. And I will.
They're just going to have to scream a little louder over my wailing and gnashing of teeth if they want to be heard right now.
Can you tell how much I love being a writer?
Okay. 'Nuff said.
Tomorrow is definitely another day.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Hi Cathy,

Perhaps this scripture might help.

Ecc 7:5 [It is] better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.

Sorry I haven't been able to read your MS yet. I've been mega busy with real work and on the writing side I've been pushing to get an Advance Reader Copy out to reviwers on my second book, plus plotting for my third.

As a newly published author I can say that even professional editing is subjective. Different editors have different philosophies, edit for different things, purposes, outcomes.

I still have to face the edit of my second book but I hope for it to go better than my first. It all just comes from experience I think. Knowing what is your voice.

Looking back at my first book, I can definately say its a first book with many flaws both made by me and perhaps also some deep gouges left by the editing process.

But I learned from that and moved on. And this was after a fully paid editorial review on it.

Drop me an email if you want to rap about the feedback you got Cathy. I'd be happy to help where I can.