Whether you are traditionally or self-published, at some point you will receive an edit letter from either your publisher or your hired freelance editor. If you've already received one, you know why I used capital letters. Just the idea of this letter can inspire fear, insecurity, and dread. I saw writers in social media comparing the length of their letters, "Wow, yours was only five pages long? Mine was twenty-six." After reading some of these disclosures, I actually emailed my editor and told him I just needed to hear that my letter was less than twenty-five pages long. He thought I was kidding. For me, it was mostly a fear of the unknown, e.g. what if they want me to re-write the entire book, replace all my characters with new ones, and change the genre from sci-fi to contemporary romance? So yes, the fear can be irrational, but it's still there.
Anyway, after getting the letter (which, thankfully, was WAY less than twenty-five pages), and later, after finishing all of the edits and having them accepted, I thought, "Huh, that wasn't so bad after all." More importantly, I couldn't believe how much stronger my book was afterward.
So, here are three things you should do after you read your edit letter for the very first time:
1) Nothing. Seriously. Don't open your manuscript. Don't bust out the highlighters and red pens. Don't think about how you're going to address the plot issue raised about chapter seventeen. So what should you do? Take a day and let it all sink again. Then, when you're ready, read the entire letter again before you do anything. The subconscious mind is a powerful thing and I'm a big advocate for "sleeping on it." By the time I re-read my edit letter, the answer to several issues had magically appeared in my head, and I hadn't even started on the edits yet. Next, read the comments by your editor within the manuscript itself. Let these sink it as well, even if your fingers are twitching on the keyboard.
2) Talk to your editor. Schedule a phone call with your editor after you've done Step 1, not before. This way, you can ask for clarification on any issues that you are still unclear about. If you're going the traditional route, you can also discuss the expected time frame for edits. I had one month to do my edits, so I knew I'd have to work quickly. This phone call only lasted about 30 minutes for me, and I hung up feeling very confident about what I needed to do. Excitement had replaced the fear--well, mostly.
3) Develop a strategy. Some writers I know like to go through the edit letter and address each point in turn, so they can check it off as they go. This works great for some people. For me, after talking to my editor and reading his first few comments within my manuscript, something clicked and I went through the entire manuscript without even looking at the edit letter. When I finally went back to the edit letter at the end, I found that I'd addressed almost everything, and only had to tweak a few more minor things. I tend to be less detail-oriented and more big picture oriented, so this system worked better for me. Everyone is different, so listen to what other people have tried, but do what works best for you.
I'd say you can relax after this hurdle, but I'd be lying. I only had one week of downtime after turning my edits in before I received my copyedits to do. That's another post, but I'm finished with those now as well...hence, why I have time to do my first blog post in forever. The bottom line is that having a great editor is priceless, and the end product is totally worth all the blood, sweat, tears, and Haagen Daaz ice cream. NOTE: If you haven't tried the Caramel Creme de Leche variety, you don't know what heaven tastes like.
In other fun news, I saw my book cover and can't wait to share it, because it's SO FREAKIN' COOL! Also, I have a shiny, new website coming soon, and I'm posting a book rave today over at the YA Valentines.
Any other editing tips you'd add to the list? Any favorite editing snacks, like ice cream?