Maybe if I ask enough people . . .

Writing is an emotional experience, and it can be difficult to accept another person’s judgment of what you have worked so hard to put together. This is true of all writing, but when it comes to a book-length work, the number of hours invested seems to make writers even more attached to their ideas. And when challenged, sometimes they go out of their way to find that one person who agrees with them.

As the copyeditor contracted for one particular book, I was surprised to get a call from the author before I had even begun the editing. He was working with a developmental editor, and he was unhappy with what his DE was telling him. The book he wanted to write was an expose’ of his former industry, and he wanted to include all of the ways he had been done wrong throughout his career. His DE explained that he was muddying the waters by including his personal rant when he should be focusing on the real problems he had uncovered in his industry. He disagreed. He was sure there was a place for his personal story in his book.

So, the author went on a hunt. By the time he got to me, he had already asked four other people for their opinions, and we all said the same thing: “If you want credibility, you need to take yourself out of the story. Don’t confuse these legitimate and timely concerns with the fact that you were wrongly terminated.” To an outsider, the verdict was clear, but the author was too close to his work to see it. He was desperate to find someone who agreed with him.

He continued to look for someone who supported him, but after asking as many people as he could think of and always getting the same response, he finally accepted his DE’s advice. It was sound advice, and he’s fortunate he never did find the one person who may have said he should combine his personal grievances with a legitimate, objective argument.

It can be difficult to know when to stick to your vision and when to listen to others. Indeed, sometimes your editor is wrong and you have to fight back. But when everyone is telling you the same thing, you just might have to accept that the best book for you to write is not the one you initially envisioned.


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