Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Advice is just that - advice. It's not a directive.

Yesterday my Lucky Press publisher, Janice Phelps Williams gave me some very sage advice regarding my revision process. She of course knows I’ve farmed my book out to readers and editors for comments, and she just wants me to stay on purpose. She said,

"I know you are working very hard on the final draft of your book, and I like that you are keeping in mind that it is YOUR book, YOUR story, and YOUR voice. Others can only offer advice. Only you can write this book."

This advice is so true and useful. It reminds me of the way we worked on proposals to secure government work contracts at my former day job in aerospace. We had many reviews throughout a rather lengthy proposal planning and writing process. We addressed the comments from those akin to Janice’s advice. We especially assessed the review comments from people outside the proposal team – a necessary review part of our process – because they in fact were not intimately involved in the book like the authors and book captains were. We took their comments, reviewed them one-by-one, fixed the parts of the proposal they noted that we thought relevant, and threw the rest away. After all, it was our team’s product, not the outside reviewer’s.

And, that is exactly how I am assessing the comments I’m getting from my reviewers. I am especially careful that their wording changes do not change my voice. What I am looking for is their suggestions on where to cut repetition, where to provide more details in places I’ve left the readers out assuming they know what I know, and on where to make changes in the flow of the book. My first reader’s suggestion to merge my last three chapters I think was spot on. I did the merge, cut out the repetition she noted, and I think I have ended up with a better product. I also got a comment that my timeline of events in another chapter was confusing. And after looking at it again I found that indeed it was. The confusion was relatively easy to fix. That kind of help is useful and valuable. I am so fortunate to have it.

No comments: