I am not the person who originally came up with the concept of this comparison – it’s been around for some time, but this is my take on it.
I openly admit to struggling with the editorial process. Not that I don’t know I need it – hey I’m only mostly perfect – but it can be painful. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are for criticism it’s never a fun process. Your beautiful words are being challenged, and all your hard work and effort is being abused for no good reason. Okay, okay – maybe a good reason – that third hand is definitely a problem unless your character is a mutant.
I opened the edits on a work in progress several months ago and this is how I went through the five stages.
Denial – there is nothing wrong with what I have written. These words are usually followed by a quick scroll to the next page. Nope – I am simply not looking at this!
Anger – Who do you think you are? In my case, this is always followed by a string of expletives. I am nothing if not articulate when it comes to stringing expletives together. Really, I do get mad on the first look and I do swear – right after I deny that there’s a f*$#($* problem.
Bargaining – Well, maybe a few small changes are in order, but I’m not giving up the hug and apology in Chapter Two no matter what you say. I am not a good negotiator. In fact, I’m terrible at it. My idea of negotiating is I say no, and then I pass you your straw and tell you “Suck it up, buttercup.” Then I default back to angry and string more expletives together.
Depression – This is the part where I sit around in the funk that comes when people simply don’t understand me. This is also where I forget that out of 85,000 words, the editor has issues with only about 1,000 of them. All I can see is the 1,000 and it’s crushing. It doesn’t matter that fixing those 1,000 will make this a better book. This is the stage where I’m sure that I should go find something else to obsess about. Maybe I’ll just string some more expletives together as I cry in the corner…
Acceptance – By the next day, I am able to approach these notes in a more rational manner. I’m able to say yay or nay based on something more reasonable than emotion, and I can communicate with my editor in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an inmate in the state asylum.
Almost all of these things happen in private. Almost. I have been known to call Dean and “vent.” Hey, he’s more than just my publisher, he’s my friend, and it comes with the territory. He listens, sympathizes, and in general tries to help me come to a better place. Then, because he’s my friend and my damn publisher, and because he knows me so well, he hands me my straw. I make the needed changes and it’s a better book.