Picking Your Battles: Location, Location, Location
Aspiring writers, listen up! Author J.T. Rogers explains how to survive the editing process without getting angry, upset or defensive. Remember, your editors are there to help you publish the best book possible.
I’ve read a lot about writing and the publication process, and I thought I was pretty prepared for the reality of selling a book. Nevertheless, one thing I didn’t anticipate going into the editing process was becoming covetous and protective of passages I hadn’t written yet.
In the last pass of my final draft for In from the Cold, an historical thriller set in New York at the beginning of the Space Race, I was exhaustive in my attention to formatting and grammar as prescribed by the style guide of the publisher I intended to submit to. When DSP Publications purchased the book, and production truly began, the editing process certainly ran smoother for that legwork. The edits focused more so on rewriting passages for structure and clarity of action, as well as fleshing out a few moments to provide additional exposition and context for several characters. This was all information I had already created in notes but had omitted or, in fact, written and then excised, from the manuscript. Putting a certain passage about my lead character’s history back into the first chapter of the novel allowed me to rewrite it—revisit it now that I had gone on a complete journey with him and gotten to know him so much better—and I found myself not only grateful my editor had requested I fill in this blank spot, but really loving the new passage I got to craft. I was pleased as punch and then, once my editor reviewed it and suggested changes, rabidly defensive.
Until that point there had been few, if any, points of contention. As a debut novelist, I entered editing with an open mindset; I gave my editors the benefit of the doubt that they knew how best to craft the novel for publication under their banner. My trust was rewarded. They had been understanding and supportive of my stylistic choices and language; I had been happy to change the flow of things—and even a few minor plot points—at their recommendation. Suddenly, though, I found myself stubbornly clutching a few added lines of exposition, and it altered the way I saw myself as a writer, changed what kind of writer I knew myself to be. With their typical graciousness, my editor ceded that ground after a few minute tweaks, and I was left feeling grateful I had reserved intransigence for barely a handful of edits.
It’s good to be confident in your vision, but it’s invaluable to be open to critique and change. No one who takes the time to read your work and give you notes wants it to be worse; your editing team is fully invested in helping you nail down the best possible version of your story. Listen to that team and consider their recommendations. Make changes. Revisit your own concept of pacing or the shape of things. Then, when the moment comes where you discover something you absolutely cannot live without, you get to dig your heels in and be a little bit of a pain in the ass about it.
J.T. Rogers grew up wanting to be either a superhero or a spy—but rather than pick one over the other, she chose to become a writer instead so she could be both in her spare time. Her fiction reflects her childhood obsessions, blending together the distrustful, cloak-and-dagger world of spies with the high-octane action and camaraderie of her favorite superheroes.
Currently, she’s living the dream of being overworked and underpaid. She writes to stay sane—or that’s the story she likes to tell, at least.
Learn more and order your copy of In From the Cold here.
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