If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve heard the advice that not all editorial comments are created equal. Some editors simply miss the mark, because they don’t have the same vision for the piece that you do. Disregard them and move on.
My advice? Listen. Wait. See what happens.
Recently, I had a middle grade fantasy critiqued by Emma D. Dryden at a writer’s conference. I had taken my protagonist from 8-years-old to 12. At least that’s what I tried to do. I had my doubts about whether or not it worked, and I wondered if the story was complicated enough for this age group.
Enter Dryden. First she pointed out that my character wasn’t 12. He was 11. It may sound picky but if you have an 11 year old you’ll understand. This is a time period full of huge developmental changes. One year makes a difference.
Then she pointed out that my story felt too young because my antagonist was my protagonist’s younger sister. “Why not make her his twin?”
Whoa! What? The story I wrote was about an oldest child having to learn to deal with a youngest child. Twins? Twins would change the whole dynamic. This wasn’t the story I’d written.
But it would make the story more complicated. Wasn’t that something I’d been worried about?
This wouldn’t be the same story at all. I thanked Dryden and vacated my seat for her next appointment.
My next session was a characterization workshop. Instead of creating a profile of my protagonist and then writing a scene, I reworked my antagonist. She changed from his younger sister to his older twin. She’s mad because he’s not as mature as she is and that’s why she’s making his life miserable.
Then I sat through a panel discussion on YA literature. At least I’m fairly certain that’s where I was physically. I was thinking about the ways that my younger antagonist had tormented my protagonist. An eleven-year-old simply wouldn’t be mean in the same ways as a six-year-old.
At least one setting will have to change. I figured that out during a session on media.
And the ending, my ending will have to be completely rewritten. That came to me at dinner.
No, the editor didn’t have the same vision for the book that I did, but her suggestion solves the problems that I had already spotted. It solves the ones that she pointed out as well.
And this new story? It is deliciously dark and won’t leave me alone. Anything with this much energy needs to be written.
Even if an editor doesn’t share your vision, listen hard and listen long. You just might be surprised to hear your characters celebrating a bigger and better story.
Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.