Coping with Editing

Tips for dealing with criticism.

Roy Peter Clark, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #294

4.  Be willing to share control of the story.

Anyone who has played tug of war with a golden retriever knows what it means to share control.  It stops being fun when one of you “wins.”  Think of that as an analogy for the writer-editor relationship.  It is a give-and-take, a deal, a transaction, a dialogue, a debate, a conversation, an argument, a consultation, maybe even a seminar in which each party learns from the other.  Sharing control turns a potential adversary into an ally, someone who can shepherd your work past the wolf packs that threaten to devour it.

5.  Encourage editors to bounce problems back to you.

Cynthia Gorney once said this about Shelby Coffey, her editor at the Washington Post:  “Usually I know that a story is flawed.  I just send it in anyway, because I’m confident that they’re going to help me figure out what’s wrong with it.  A great editor will make you feel like a real trouper, a truly talented person for being able to fix a story, for being able to send something in that’s flawed and then make it better.”

6. Establish personal relationships with anyone who influences your work. 

The more anonymous you are to editors, the easier it will be for them to change your work without consultation.  If you have the emotional intelligence of an old tennis racket, go ahead and hide in your locker.  If you want to get the best out of those assigned to help you, learn their names and faces.  Ask what you can do to make their work easier.  Bake or buy them some cookies.

7.  Avoid guerrilla warfare tactics.

These include

  • Never making eye contact with an editor.
  • Picking up a phone when the editor approaches.
  • Always having a story you are “working on” to avoid assignments.
  • Waiting for the mean editor to take lunch and then hand your work in to the nice lady.
  • Staying out of sight, so you’ll stay out of mind.
  • Handing in your story as late as possible so no one has time to muck it up.

These may work some of the time, but they also can create so much uncertainty and drama that they suck the joy out of the craft.