Most of my experience with the editorial process is as an editor. I’m accustomed to reviewing the work of others and suggesting, and in some cases demanding, revisions, improvements, do-overs and various other things that, regardless of whether I’m right or wrong to suggest them, no doubt cause the heart of the author to sink.
Though I also write, much of what I write doesn’t go through the same editorial process. To be honest, I’m a lot less comfortable with receiving feedback than giving it. It’s useful, therefore, that I am sometimes required to submit my own work to an editor and receive much the same sort of medicine I dole out. It’s easy to forget the way it feels to wait for the feedback to come in, and to submit the next draft anxious not to look bad for making mistakes, and worried that there’ll be too much work to do to get things done.
The very act of submitting a draft feels like the completion of a task. To find out that you were further from your target than you thought is easy to take as an assault on one’s judgement.
The key thing is not to worry. Editors need to be kind about their feedback, and I have to hope that what I send back to authors about their work is phrased and shared with the right intentions. Similarly, authors have to choose the way they approach the edits.
From my own experience on both sides of this, here are a few constructive ways to approach it:
- Be pleased to receive such detailed attention on one’s work
- Remember that it’s the text, not the person being reviewed
- Treat advice as an opportunity to learn
- Question the reason behind a change to understand it better
- Take the motivation for a bit of feedback and try to top the suggestion from the editor
- Look forward to an end result that’s the sum of all contributors’ input
- Ignore situations where it seems your work has been misunderstood – if it’s not immediately understood, then you can work harder to make it more understandable
- Accept that taste is subjective, including your own
Above all else, remember that you’re probably yet to write your finest work, each edit is a step towards that.
Concerning the points in this article, I’ve managed to make mistakes across the board on all of them, and probably will do again. I hope to learn from them.