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Monday, September 06, 2010

seven stages of editing grief

I learned a lot about how I process feedback on my manuscripts from a post on Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz's blog about editor and writer Karen McGrath's Seven Stages of Editing Grief. The stages, for anyone else who might benefit, are:

1. Denial: This feedback is stupid and useless. 
2. Pain and Guilt: How could I have made such a mess of this?
3. Anger: Who does this editor/crit partner think she is?
4. Depression: Why did I ever think I could write?  
5. Acquiescence: Maybe I should at least give these comments a serious look.
6. Reconstruction: If I do this and this and that, maybe I can make this work.
7. Hope: This is better than before. Maybe I can even take it a little bit beyond what she suggested.

I lost an insightful critique partner in part because I didn't let myself work through this process before responding to her comments. Now that I know this is my arc, I should do better at recognizing Stage 1 so I can bite my tongue until I get to at least Stage 5. (On the flip side, I now have a critique partner who gives tough feedback so pleasantly she avoids launching me into the grieving process altogether. She's a revelation and an inspiration, and I'm working hard to emulate her tone in the feedback I give to others.)

So, now that we understand editing grief, does anyone who's reading this have a stage or two to suggest for separating the editing advice you *should* listen to from that which is best ignored? How do *you* know when to invest the time to evolve from denial to acceptance, and when to just slough it off as bad advice?

(To read Penny's original post, which includes more information on Karen, visit: )

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  1. Bernadette, thank you for the link to my blog. I'm glad you found the post useful. I know Karen will be pleased as well.

  2. Thank you, Penny. I've also added your blog to my list of favorites, in the right-hand column below the list of "Writerly Websites."

  3. Hi Bernadette. thanks for the link to my contact information. I'm glad you find the list helpful.

    To answer your question, I try everything on for size and let it sit for awhile. If it doesn't fit well in a day or two, I discard it. A good idea usually grows on me.

    I've heard some terrible war stories about editors who wanted clients to add giraffes into a romantic mystery...umm, no, that's bizarre.

    Things I may not have considered can seem as bad because I have blind spots. So thinking about it (within the realm of reason, of course) helps in the long run.

  4. Edits are tough, awful, horrible things that can put out the most beautiful blooms--at least that's what I tell myself when I'm gaping at an editor's comment.

    Usually a nice long walk, a soak in the tub and a good night's sleep help me come back to the comments/edits with a less hostile attitude.