It is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of motivation must one day receive edits that knock the wind out of her.
Yep, there is nothing like that email from a critique partner or an agent or an editor that suggests massive structural revisions or removal of a character or a completely different beginning or ending to make you think of weighting your pockets down with stones and slipping tragically into the water.
If you keep at this long enough and want to improve badly enough, it will happen.
Writing can feel solitary and it is, as long as you never let anyone read what you write. Once you do, though, you’ve opened the door to opinions. You’ve invited that reader into your world. You’ve given them a tiny piece of ownership.
You’ve also given yourself the gift of perspective. Maybe you think your main character is deliciously snarky. Maybe you think it’s romantic to have your couple bicker constantly. Maybe you like to have explosions that require suspension of disbelief in every chapter. Your reader can—and might—tell you that none of that works. Your reader hates your main character and wants to see her tied up and run over by a train. Your reader had parents who bickered constantly and she can’t stand to read books with bickering because it triggers her. Your reader was willing to go with you for the first suspension of disbelief and even hung in for the second, but not for the third.
This knowledge always hurts. Always. You wouldn’t have written it if you didn’t like it. You read it over three times and you liked it more on each read.
Here’s the tough truth: if you want to get it published, you listen.
You have to listen. Once a book is out in the world, it might have hundreds or thousands of readers. Maybe you are the outlier on bickering couples being adorable. Maybe most people hate them. Never assume that your beliefs are automatically correct. Doing so is nothing but sheer arrogance.
Caveat: if you never intend to publish the book, don’t worry about it. You don’t have to change a word. I admire people who write books with no desire to publish them, in theory, but I don’t know any.
So how should you react when you get edits that make you think you’d have been better off as a concert pianist? Wait. Think. Wait some more. After a day or so, the desire to raze villages and throw your computer out a window and write scathing subtweets will pass. After three days, you may calm down and realize that you can work with some of the suggestions, maybe even most of them. I recommend getting in there and crossing the low-hanging fruit off the list. Take out some of the em-dashes you use too much. Strike some overuse of your character’s names in dialogue. Do something. It can inspire you to do bigger revisions. You may even be able to see some daylight—maybe your reader was on to something that can take your manuscript to the next level.
Give the edit suggestions a chance. Save them in a file labeled “critiques.” You never know when you’ll wake up at three a.m. in eternal gratitude for the wisdom of your most beloved friend.