Receiving your manuscript back from your editor can be a harrowing experience. So much blood and tears were shed over it. What if your editor hates it?
It starts out with you checking your email like a madman about a week before your editor said she’d have it ready for you, until you’ve exceeded your friend’s email-checking obsession by checking yours over 50 times per day.
And then it appears in your inbox two days early. You think “Oh God, why is it early?! I’m not ready for this!”
At this point, the subject might as well read “WARNING: HEART ATTACK ENCLOSED.” You wonder if anyone around you knows CPR. Didn’t Julius Caesar die of a heart attack? Oh. No, he was stabbed. Like a bunch of times. That’s probably a better fate.
You run to the bathroom and throw up.
Then you come back and stare at it. What will be inside? You imagine a screen-sized poster that says, “Time for a new career. I hear McDonald’s is hiring.”
You download it.
You start with the analysis.
The analysis contains “GIVE UP WRITING” in red, repeating like scrolling screenfuls of computer code from the 80s for four pages. Or at least, that’s how you read it. You ask the empty room if anyone knows CPR.
Now, for the big step: opening the file. You stare at it. You decide it’s time to give up writing. Right now. You don’t want to know what’s in that file. You snap your laptop closed, slide it under your bed, and decide to wait until tomorrow. Your heart can’t take this kind of stress.
Five minutes later, your laptop is on your lap and you open the file. You’re not sure how it got there.
No sleep is happening until you know.
RED. OH MY GOSH. ALL THAT RED. Like the rivers of blood that stained Julius Caesar. And Juliet. And Jane Eyre’s heart when she leaves Mr. Rochester.
It’s time to panic.
You snap your laptop closed again, considering it your enemy. You decide to name it Brutus, for once it was faithful, but now it’s an enemy. You whisper, “Et tu, Brute?” This time you shove it farther under your bed. You grab a box of tissues, cry, hiding under your desk. Then you realize you don’t have any chocolate. Or ice cream.
A store run at 10 pm. As you drive, you think, “I’ll never be a writer. What’s it like working in the fast food industry?” or “Good thing I know how to grow my own food because I’m going to end up a starving hermit anyway.”
You get home with your munchies and realize you’re far too nervous to eat.
You psych yourself up. This is silly. It’s just a Word document. You steel yourself like Jay Berry Lee ready to capture those terrifying monkeys, and peek at the first page.
Okay, maybe it’s not as bad as you thought. Most of that red is highlights going off to the comments. Comments. Cool. Okay. I can do this.
And then you scroll to the next page.
Oh, God, it’s worse!
You panic again.
And cry. Again.
This time, you grab the ice cream and start shoveling it into your face. You see yourself in your dresser mirror and realize with horrible certainty that you look like a starved potbellied pig. That jerks you back to sanity. For the time being.
You think seriously about hitting the “accept all changes button.”
After two minutes, you remember that this is only a Word document, which you had established just minutes ago. It is not the parchment that sealed the fate of the Count of Monte Cristo. Maybe it’s best to take a little at a time. You take a deep breath. How how about one page tonight? That seems doable.
You begin the corrections.
Actually, maybe one paragraph is enough for tonight . . .
But you keep going. You haven’t gotten this far just to give up now! You start rocking this thing. Five pages in, you’re starting to feel better. You think that maybe one day you actually will become Jane Austen.
And then it happens.
HOW IN THE NAME OF THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL DID I MISS THAT?
You have just found that an obvious typo was pointed out with a definition: “two is a number, to is an infinitive.”
You now die of shame. You can’t even remember a literary character who died a similar death.
After a few minutes, you realize you’re not dead. “Oh, God, please end my misery!” you plead.
You revert to hiding under your desk.
But you left your laptop open on your bed and you can see it.
Again, you steel yourself. You call yourself a coward and tell yourself to buck up. Be like Merry in the face of the Lord of the Nazgul! This is between you and your editor. No one else needs ever know!
You stuff all four of the Reese’s from the King-size package into your mouth and continue corrections.
You get through ten more pages, and reward yourself with more chocolate.
And then . . .
You find single page without any corrections! You celebrate by eating the rest of the bag of M&Ms, and start on the bag of mini Butterfingers. Thank the Lord for Butterfingers. Maybe this really is the next Pride and Prejudice!
Now you’re 30 pages in. It’s the next day, and you’ve decided that this is kind of fun. Just scroll and fix, scroll and fix.
Wait a second.
You have just found a correction that you don’t agree with. You feel a little annoyed, and then shrug and skip over it, reassuring yourself that your editor isn’t always right. She said as much in her analysis.
You continue to correct three more pages slowly. Very slowly. You’re still thinking about that correction you didn’t agree with.
You internally (or was it internally?) scream with frustration and immediately scroll back and make the correction before you can change your mind because you editor is always right. No matter what she said in the analysis.
Uhoh. This page’s margins are filled with notes. Notes upon notes upon notes.
SO MUCH RED. Oh the floods of red in Moria when the dwarves were slain.
You brace yourself and start to read.
She cut your favorite part.
You stare in shock.
You reread “scene unnecessary to the plot” 100 times.
McDonald’s it is. No great hero ever worked at McDonald’s. Beowulf certainly never did.
You lock your computer in your friend’s car where you can’t be tempted to touch it again, and then watch Hogan’s Heroes, crying instead of laughing.
Did I miss your particular reaction to receiving an edited manuscript? Tell me your experience in the comments!
Stay tuned for my next blog which will feature the editor’s side of editing a manuscript!
Bethany Swoboda is a freelance editor for Wordbender Books. She has always loved reading, reading, reading, and enjoys helping authors polish and develop their manuscripts. Some of her many hobbies are horseback riding, bouldering, helping work her family’s farm, playing piano, crocheting, and volunteering at her church. She has a BA in creative writing and a minor in professional writing from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri.