Critique, Editing, Editor, Feedback, Fiction, Novel, Revision, Writing

When your editor suggests surgery …

After I sent my manuscript to my editor, I received an email from her indicating I should be patient in waiting for her feedback. Less than a week later, I received another email from her. She said though she had planned to work on my book in spurts, fitting it in with other work, once she started reading, she found it hard to stop. That’s good, right?

I opened the attached file and scrolled through. She noted a few places she felt needed clarification or enhancement. She questioned a thing or two. She also found many errant commas, absent quotes, and those tiny missing words that your eye fills in when you read: a, in, of, etc. As I neared the end, I thought, That’s all? Great! Piece of cake edit ahead of me.

But then …

At the end, she’d written a long note. She declared Parts I and II a go. What about Part III? Bottom line—she suggested I cut. CUT!!! Not the whole thing, of course. But, but, but, I thought, I’ve never had to cut before! Well, yeah, maybe a sentence or two. But this was nearly 2,500 words she wanted me to surgically remove!!! Ten pages!!!!!

So, yeah, I freaked.

While I tried to get oxygen flowing to my brain again, the phrase “kill your darlings” swam before my eyes. But when I I could think again, I realized this wasn’t a darling she had told me to cut. It was more an acquaintance. To be honest, I was never 100% sure of that part myself. When I thought about it more, I remembered that a former version of this section was the only one my critique group had ever uniformly given a thumbs down.

She cited solid reasons why this section should go. It delayed the resolution readers would be hungry for at that point in the book. And, probably, this section featured one rejection too many and might turn readers against one of the characters. How can I argue against that?

I’m sad to lose a few lines and images from that section, but it’s history. Now, I just have to put my writer/surgeon hat on and suture that wound.

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27 thoughts on “When your editor suggests surgery …”

  1. I’m cracking up at your graphic images. Sometimes it does feel like bloody business, cutting pages, but sometimes it feels like a fantastic haircut, you walk away feel like a better version of you, who is also carrying around less weight.


  2. Linda, this is Deja Vue! The editor of my debut novel was ruthless. In the margins it said, “What’s the point?,” “This is chatter,” “Cut,” “Boring,” etc.
    “But,” I said, “this belongs to the story, doesn’t it?”
    Well, I took his advice and slashed whole chapters and parts of chapters. And, just as with you, it was the places I felt unsure about he objected to. It was a great learning experience. After I cut those “precious” parts, the story improved tremendously and I didn’t miss a single one of them.
    Good luck, Linda!


    1. My editor is less blunt, Christa, but she gets the job done. I’m a little mad at myself for not listening to my inner editor as well as my critique partners, but I expect I’ll listen closer next time. 🙂


    1. Thank you, V.V. I cut and sutured and sent it back to my editor for her input. Btw, I’ve changed my mind about my next post. My editor is someone I’m fortunate to know in real life and since she’s not editing professionally at this time, she would prefer to remain anonymous.


      1. I understand completely. BUT could you tell us your editor search-and-find story anyway? Leaving out the identifiable details? The thought of finally having an editor thrills me, and I’d love to read any tidbits you could offer.


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