Wow, editing sucks.
A few weeks, I finished my second draft of The Thrilling Adventures of Clara Delaney and sent it out to a bunch of friends and family. The whole editing process was a roller coaster between getting really excited about the best thing I’ve ever written and getting really depressed at how every word that falls out of my fingers is sheer crap. I was excited when I sent out the draft (a revised first draft, really), and then about twelve hours later the horror set in.
What if they hate it? What if they read it and go, “Ugh, what happened to the English language? Why did someone barf all over these pages? I don’t want to read this. God, this is weird.” What if all the leftover typos, the bits I haven’t quite polished up yet, the accidental references to a nine-year-old as a sorority girl– what if that’s a total turn-off? Or– gasp– my book has gay people in it. What are some of my relatives going to think of that relationship?
This book is my baby. It’s not my most precious baby, but it’s my baby and I’ve put a lot of hard work into it. What if they tear it to pieces?
Well, that’s kind of why I sent it out there, right?
Pros and cons of your family reading your book:
Here’s the thing about using your close friends and family as the first readers of something you’ve written: they love you, so they’ll love it. They know how hard you worked, they know how much you have riding on it, and they want you to be happy. So there’s always a danger of bias.
I say “a danger” because it’s not always true– my own family can be pretty harsh critics on occasion, but they do it with love. And it makes their complements all the more valuable.
But here’s the thing: editing is cutthroat. It’s okay to have some people who will love whatever you write, who will encourage you no matter what. Hell, it keeps you going. You know who else wrote a book only his mom loved? Bram Stoker.
In summary… Con: They love you. Pro: They love you. Use it wisely.
You’ll need that love, because…
…the whole purpose of getting people to read your book is to have them tear it apart.
Some of your readers will flat-out dislike it. They’ll tell you to drop it, it’s not worth writing, it’s not their thing. These aren’t the people you want to listen to: they’re clearly not your audience and no book in the world has a 100% success rate.
Some of your readers will tell you it’s perfect and not to change a single word. These are also not the people you want to listen to. Keep them around for the morale you will so very likely need, but remember that no first draft is 100% perfect.
Some of your readers will send you notes, with page numbers attached, that will tell you what they didn’t like and why. They’ll tell you what’s confusing, what doesn’t make sense, where your character clearly stepped out of themselves and clearly turned into the author instead. The gut reaction to this kind of criticism tends to be defense: they are CLEARLY WRONG because it TOTALLY MAKES SENSE and they SUCK.
If you find yourself facing this kind of criticism using the mental caps-lock key, back off and start listening. Actually listening. Then decide if it’s advice worth taking.
But it’s scary!
Yeah it is.
I’m terrified, personally. I don’t have an established background as a writer yet, and therefore automatically assume that whoever’s telling me I’m wrong knows something that I don’t. This is not always true, and when it comes to something as objective as writing it will always come down to your own choice.
Listen, decide, change. Repeat until you have something worth publishing.