3. Feedback & Revision
(vi) TAKE CHANGES ON BOARD
Constructive criticism is still criticism. Nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of it. Even when you’ve had a nagging suspicion that improvements were possible and desirable, the natural first reaction is always an inward groan.
You need to pass beyond that groan. Revision is a challenge to your powers of lateral thinking—take up the challenge! Get those creative juices flowing in new courses!
Does that make it sound too easy? But I used to be the world’s worst reviser, resisting every change. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the revision process. I haven’t forgotten how hard it can be. Believe me, if I can reform, anyone can!
There are two kinds of poor revision. I’ve only been guilty of the first, which is begrudging revision. Begrudging revisers do the minimum to keep people happy. They accept the need, but deep down they don’t believe in it or don’t feel good about it. The end result is a patchwork job, where the changes look lumpy and not well blended in.
The other kind of poor revision is passive revision. Passive revisers put themselves completely into someone else’s hands. They believe in what they’re doing, but they trust their editor, for example, to tell them everything that needs to be done, without thinking through implications and ramifications for themselves. The end result, again, is lumpy changes, not well blended in.
Taking changes on board means not only believing in them, but also making them your own. No reader, not even a professional editor, can foresee the far-flung consequences of a particular change. Only the writer, who has lived through the production of the story from start to finish, can be aware of all the implications and ramifications.
It’s a pity that editors always minimize the difficulty of revisions. ‘Only a few small changes here and there, you’ll deal with them easily.’ It’s said with the best of intentions, but—memo to editors—you might do better to use reverse psychology on us! Tell us, ‘Look, these are huge revisions, and you’ll struggle to carry them out.’ Then we can feel positive relief when we look at what’s suggested. ‘Yes, it’s a big ask, but I can do it! I really can make it work!’