Thursday, September 8, 2011
What Makes a Good Editorial Letter?
I was nervous to open it, but once I did, I found myself nodding my head like a madwoman and feeling a rush of excitement as I realized how much stronger Maggie's changes will make the story, and how well she knows the characters.
What makes the letter so good?
1. Praise goes a long way. Maggie started out by telling me her favorite parts, which immediately set me at ease and reminded me it's all going to be okay; she likes the book! That's why she bought it!
2. It's very organized: the perfect recipe for revisions. It doesn't jump all over the place; it's divided into categories so I can follow along easily and see how everything fits together. I'm confident if I follow instructions, I'll end up with a delicious cake.
3. It's clear and specific. Maggie didn't give me vague suggestions like, "fix the humor/emotion/tension/romance/mystery [insert attribute]"; she clearly laid out exactly what she felt might be improved, and then gave precise examples of how and why. As I read the letter, I could immediately picture what I needed to do. (Now it's just a matter of getting down to it...)
The next morning, I woke up early, ripped open my new package of red pens (see above), and started jotting feverish notes in the margins of scenes I wanted to flesh out or change. It's been exhilarating so far. I've got work ahead of me for sure, but Maggie's notes were so helpful and spot-on to me that I won't feel "right" about my manuscript until I've made these changes.
I feel very lucky to have an editor who believes in my writing and could see things in it that I didn't see, and who's willing to work with me to create the best version of the story possible.
What do you look for in critique notes or edits?