Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Revision Robots vs. Angelic Editors: The Difference Between Literal and Figurative Revision

Recently, one of my agents, Jennifer Wills happened to be in town for a writer's conference and we were lucky enough to meet up with each other for dinner afterward.


First, it was a great meeting and we talked about all sorts for stuff from the personal (what we like/don't like to eat... no raw tomatoes for me!) to the professional (projects, process, etc.). One of the topics in the later category that came up over our dinner and discourse was revision.

I enjoy the process of revision a lot. It might be frustrating at times, but I've learned to embrace the pain because editing a manuscript almost always leads to a better result, especially with feedback from others.

However, one thing about feedback is that as authors we can take feedback too literally. Sometimes as writers, we can become robotic in our revisions based off other people's critiques. We take their comments and suggestions too literally and become confused Revision Robots, especially when there are conflicting feedback from our critique partners.

I know I'm occasionally guilty of this in my revisions... but one thing I've become better at over the years is asking the question, "What does this person really mean when they make this comment?"

Jennifer mentioned she uses me as an example for her other clients about how not to take her feedback literally. She likes that I look past her specific comments and address the underlying concerns in ways that surprise her (and me, too).

For example, Jennifer expressed concern about a dangling plot thread in a story and made some suggestions, but I didn't follow her input word for word. Instead, I thought about the source of her concern and in a moment of angelic epiphany, I realized how I could resolve the plot thread and make the whole story much better.

During our dinner conversation, Jennifer brought up a Neil Gaiman's quote:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

What a great way to sum up the difference between robotic and angelic revision.

So, the next time you receive feedback on one of your stories try to remember to ponder the deeper meaning behind the comments. Don't just be a Revision Robot, but try to spread your wings and become an Angelic Editor.

(Please don't take this image literally. Ignore the wand and imagine this is an angel ;)

You might just be surprised by what you find when you do.