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Shoot Your Ego in the Head

Posted on 2008.02.17 at 01:31
Tags: , , , ,

I took a week off from the brick-and-mortar to focus on the rewrite of my second novel, BLOOD BOUND, which I had hoped to complete before New Year. After I finished the last draft, I realized the beginning of the book had a serious flaw. It suffered from the same weakness as an earlier draft of CRUCIFER, not enough character development before the roller coaster roars down the first hill.

On the first day of my vacation, I received an email from an editor that I respect immensely. The
UK editor said she was turning down CRUCIFER, and gave me pages of detailed feedback about the problems with the first chapter. I felt like I’d been gutted. It took all I had not to weep. Not the best way to start a writing marathon. I paced the room, sat back down and took a deep breath, sipped coffee and lit a black clove cigarette. After taking a long drag with a shaky hand, I slowly, carefully reread her email. The painful truth sank in--each and every criticism she leveled was dead-on. I could see flaws I’d never noticed, and now I understood how to fix them. I wrote back to thank her, because her feedback went above and beyond the call of duty, and told her I agreed with all her criticisms. More, I said I was going to tear out the cliché dialog and strip down the overwritten descriptions. What I didn’t do was ask if she would give me another chance. I didn’t want to be “that guy.” 
To my astonishment, the next day, the editor wrote back:

"I'm so glad you found it helpful; too often these days I find if I bother to say anything, I then get lambasted for arrogance and stupidity, sigh.  I figured N. (a mutual friend) wouldn't have an idiot like that for a chum, so I'm pleased to be proven right!  Tear it apart, rewrite, and I'll look again."

I emailed two NY editors who were sitting on CRUCIFER, and told them about the feedback I received. I said I was making the changes and mentioned that the
UK editor was going reread the manuscript. Both editors wrote back immediately and said they looked forward to reading the new version. One expressed immense respect for the UK editor, who it turns out is an acquaintance of hers, and the other said “Awesome, I can’t wait to read it!” After a marathon rewrite, I sent the revised draft to the NY editors. Next week I’m sending it back to the UK editor, after I decide if I need to make deeper cuts. I’m overwhelmed that all three are giving me a chance.

The lessons are pretty obvious, but still worth repeating. Don’t burn your bridges. Always show respect. Listen to editors, they know what the hell they’re talking about, and for God’s sake shoot your ego in the head. An editor gives you feedback because she wants to help you.  She only took time out of her overwhelming schedule because she thought you were worth the extra effort.  There’s a reason why Stephen King has prefaced so many books with, “For everything that’s wrong blame me, for everything that’s right thank my editor.” I just hope I’ve learned enough that one of them will take me by the hand. It’s been a long eighteen years of never giving up.


coppervale at 2008-02-17 12:07 (UTC) (Link)
Excellent post. And Steve is dead right.
rjcrowtherjr at 2008-02-19 11:14 (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!


Thank you for kind words, and I'm so happy and surprised that you read my blog. Some good news on the promo front for "The Search for the Red Dragon." Your publicist sent me a blow up of the cover, and it's beautiful. I've ordered two cases of SFTRD and another dozen of HTBD, also a half dozen of the pirate book. They should be here any day. I'll do right by you when you come by to sign stock, and we'll have plenty of books for a spectacular front of store presence. It was wonderful meeting you in person.

Best, Rob
coppervale at 2008-02-22 17:49 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Sounds like a plan! We're working out the schedule now - I'll let you know as soon as we lock it down.

Keep up the great work -

petitemorte at 2008-02-17 23:21 (UTC) (Link)
Good luck my dear!
rjcrowtherjr at 2008-02-19 11:16 (UTC) (Link)

My lovely lady!

I didn't know you checked my blog! So good to hear from you. I read on you're blog that you're going into surgery soon. I hope it goes well for you, and that you heal quickly and wholly. Give my love to Brandon too!

XO, Rob
(Deleted comment)
rjcrowtherjr at 2008-02-19 11:21 (UTC) (Link)

La Gringa!

It's so good to hear from you! I've been thinking about you. Forgive me for taking so long to write back. I've been editing like mad to make the improvements that the UK editor suggested. I'm pretty sure you know her, but trying to be discrete. How have you been? I've missed you so much. And I would love to hear your words of wisdom.

Love, Rob
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