Well, the results are in! It took quite some time for me to decide how I wanted to approach this. I’ve decided the best approach is an honest one. I have finally completed my first editing experience as an aspiring self publisher. It was everything I feared it would be! But I say this in jest. I’ve had the distinct privilege of being able to have my work viewed, critiqued, and edited by multiple professionals. I am not well connected, however an opportunity presented itself, and I simply took advantage of the opportunity.
In addition to hiring my editor to review my work, I also had several other editors agree to take my first work under their wings and “break-me-in”, if you will. As a result, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the effects of this process. Let me be very clear here, I am extremely grateful for this experience. Having multiple professionals critique my work at one time made me better understand what I’ll call the American Idol syndrome.
A total of four (4) professionals viewed and remarked on my first book. Two of the four were completely brutal; one was more gentle, but still direct; and the fourth absolutely adored my creation. This sent me spinning into a whirlwind of emotions. I found myself reflecting heavily on whether the pursuit of writing was a sound decision. The teacher in me graded these critiques and: +1/4, oh that’s easy . . . F! I got an F! A 25% F! At least, that’s what I told myself. Then I was forced to reflect.
As artists (because writing is an art form) we are aware of our talent, we know we have talent, and we know we possess a certain ability above others based on our personal experiences. People have always raved about how skilled we are in writing. People laugh whenever we write a witty comment in a speech, essay, narrative, or short story. We evoke the targeted emotion or reaction from our readers in a particular event in a story. We had those teachers or professors that challenged us to do better and take our writing to the next level, and we rose to the challenge. All these experiences gave us the notion that writing was a skilled art we possessed. Therefore, we must be good writers. What we don’t prepare ourselves for, despite our efforts, is the emotional blow of those who will not respond so positively to our writing. So I had some serious soul searching to do.
The initial review of each editors’ comments was extremely difficult. I even turned away a couple of times as if watching a gruesome murder scene unfold before my eyes. I couldn’t pick them up again until the next day. Then I read each comment two more times. It became clear to me I had two Simon Cowells, one Randy Jackson, and one Paula Abdul. It also became clear that I would need to take each comment for what it was; understand that this wasn’t personal; and decide on a plan of action based on the feedback I had been given. After all, I did ask for this.
The two Simons, or the Simon twins, ripped my work to shreds! I couldn’t believe it. Initially I felt I had to go back to the drawing board and completely scrap my story. Me? But, I’m so good at what I do. How could this be? Snap out of it! After the 2nd and 3rd reads I realized their feedback was really good. They were right about some things I hadn’t noticed, considered, or even thought about. They liked the overall concept, but clearly there needed to be some fine-tuning. Okay, I can accept that.
After rereading Randy’s critique, I realized, Randy shared the same view as the Simon twins, but the delivery was more gentle. Okay, 3 to 1. I had some work to do. Then I re-read Paula’s critique. Paula loved everything about my work. It just needed some mechanical tweaks. I was beginning to resent Paula. I suddenly understood why contestants audition for American Idol and are a hot mess! Outside of the producers trying to keep ratings up, some of these people actually think they’re good because they didn’t have a Simon Cowell in their lives until now. Somehow, these people had been encouraged to take their talent to the next level because no one ever told them they needed more work, or they just weren’t good. More and more, I was appreciating the brutal honesty of the Simon twins and resenting Paula for not being more straightforward.
It took another day or two for me to realize, Paula simply liked my work. How can I criticize her for seeing my vision? That’s when it occurred to me that I would need to accept the opinions of everyone. I had to accept that people will view my work differently, develop opposing opinions about it, love it, hate it, like it, and no matter what, I have to accept and respect those opinions. It took about a week for me to snap back to reality, accept these critiques for what they were, and get to work. I had to decide if I was going to push through this experience to get this book published, or wallow in self-pity and return to the classroom never knowing what could have been. I decided to push through. I took suggestions from every editors’ notes and created something that I’m much more proud to call mine. I stuck to my guns, because this is MY story after all. I changed what I agreed needed to be changed, moved some things around, and realized that we could agree to disagree on some things. One of the beauties of self-publishing is being able to stay true to your work; the way you want it to be written. This is my work. My name is on it. I own it, and ultimately it needs to be my voice that comes out of it. I’m so proud of my final manuscript. And I can’t thank the Simon twins, Randy, or Paula enough for helping me get my manuscript polished and ready for the next phase.
As for the next American Idol? Who cares? We all know it’s a matter of popular opinion. I’m simply looking forward to the opportunity of being on stage. After that, I’ll just continue doing what I love. Regardless of whether my work is loved by the majority, I write because it will reach at least one. And one isn’t such a lonely number when a heart has been touched.