Having an Open Mind to BIG Changes

You’ve done it. You’ve finished writing your book.

Whether that book is 500 words or over 100k, you deserve to celebrate. So do just that.

Celebrate. Now. Go. DO IT.

After that first celebration, don’t start sending that baby to everyone just yet. As you know, even if you don’t want to admit it, revisions are necessary. I’m not sure of the statistics of authors who got published on their first draft, but I’m guessing the stats don’t work in our favor. You see, you have to get into a new mindset.

Because what comes after writing?

Editing. Revising. Editing. Revising. And editing some more.

As you may remember, I shared how working with an editor changed the way I write. I also shared with you how you should face changes in your book: whether to do them or not. But now I felt like it was important to mention something else.

The big ones. The big changes, that is.

What happens when there’s a plot hole or when characters are confusing? What happens when there’s, well, nothing going on? What if the pace isn’t right or the tone needs development?

You’re going to have to use that delete button. It’s going to take a lot more typing. But above all else, you’re going to have to have an open mind. You’re going to have to be okay with the story going somewhere else. You’re going to have to be okay with writing new scenes or deleting some characters.

The first book I wrote was incredibly personal. (By ‘first book’, I mean the first book I really finished that felt like it could go the distance.) So I hired an editor and was pacing and biting my nails as I prepared to see what she had to say. And, as you may remember, I wasn’t exactly ready or open to the possibilities of big changes.

Your editor doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or murder the book because he or she might not like it. Your editor’s job is to help make your book the best it can be. Every single time this will include developmental changes. These suggestions don’t imply that you’re a bad writer or that your book isn’t good. When a great writer combines with a great editor, you get a great book.

So here’s the deal:

Changes are going to happen

Even if your book is absolutely amazing, there is going to be a change. Maybe it’s just some words, or chapters, or cuts, or additions. But the thing is, it’s going to happen. So instead of swearing up and down you won’t change your book, pick the parts you really don’t think you’re willing to sacrifice. Those are the parts that will get you through your changes.

Big changes are usually amazing changes

The beginning of my first book was, admittedly, slow. For someone who didn’t know the story, and obviously wouldn’t really know my characters, they’d be lucky to get through it. But I didn’t see that. I saw this beautiful story that was a part of my life that I thought everyone would love. But when I got some feedback suggesting I twist things from my true story, it took me a while to realize that was the way to do it. Now the book, so different from that first draft, can definitely stand on its own two feet instead of needing some crutches (or more backstory).

If you just can’t do it, get another opinion

Before you whip out that red marker or get in a fight with the delete button, make sure you really think it through. You want to have an open mind to changes, but you also don’t want to start making a ton of changes off of one person’s suggestion.

Granted, if that one person is your editor/agent/publisher, you should obviously listen. That’s the exception.

But the RULE is to always have more than one person read it. Have a few critique partners or beta readers handy so you can get more than one opinion. Also try to get opinions from people who you are not close to. It is very different to hear suggestions from a third party than it is to hear from a parent, partner, or friend. If you go to a third party, you are more likely to get critical, unbiased feedback.

But how exactly do you go about making these big changes? What if your editor has told you to increase the pace or write a new scene or delete some characters? How are you supposed to take you 90K-word book and facilitate these changes? Stay tuned…we will answer just that next!