You should sleep better when you finish a big two-week push.

Not that I’m complaining. All right, I’m complaining, but it’s a warm, happy, sort of complaining. Maybe I’ll take a pain killer before bed tonight. First world problems.

Anyway, Saturday night, just one week plus a few hours from starting the second novel edit, I finished, putting in the last of the critique notes. There is still one set of notes I have to collect from one critiquer Thursday, but I’ll put those in Thursday night and they’ll probably take less than an hour. That left me with just the third book which I was about five-eighths of the way through. I was more than three quarters through by the time I went to bed and I finished that by the afternoon. So my goal was to finish by Monday night. I finished a day early. I still need to make a pass on my comments to take out the snark, but my vacation should begin apace.

I think the work on the first and third book was very solid. The middle book I’m not sure I was objective enough about. I need to go back and look at it through a better humor lens. I’ll do that in a couple weeks and see if it needs another pass. I’m not sure I have the funny tuned right. We’ll see. That might just be a third draft problem.

I noticed something on this big editing push I thought I’d talk about, though. I call it critiquer rage. I’ve spoken before about how you have to read past what the critiquer says to find the real problem behind words. One manifestation of this happens when you thoroughly lose the reader at some point during a critique session. From that point on, the tone of their notes change and they basically start hate-critiquing. I don’t really blame them, because I’ve done it myself. It’s that point where you’ve stopped evaluating the manuscript in front of you and now you’re just arguing with it.

It’s a hard place to be in when you’re trying to read those notes. Sometimes you just have to throw them out. I try not to, but I DO have a critiquer or two who simply can’t give me useful data once they’ve hit that point. The fact that they hit that threshold in the first place is pretty useful of course, and I go back and fix the issue that broke them, but much of their critique after that are just vitriol.

MOST people, though, still have some gems gleaming through their combativeness after their breaking point. You can still read their variations of tone and say, “They are calming down. This section is probably working if it’s making them forgive me a little” or “They are arguing with the furniture now, I suspect this section is boring.” Often they will spot logic problems when they are angry that they will NEVER spot when they are involved in the story, so really think through any of those.

The big thing is that you have to keep your head when you hit those chapters. It’s hard, but you have to remember that they are doing you a favor and it was probably something you did that made them angry. You probably didn’t ask for their critique if you didn’t trust their opinion, so you need to listen to that opinion, even when you don’t like it. And you need to find that opinion even when it takes some unpleasant digging. Sometimes I’ll take a little break and flip to an easier critiquer when I find myself losing my own objectivity. Sometimes I’ll read ahead and go back over a section several times, discounting a section as simple meanness then going back and thinking, “but maybe…”

Remember. They volunteered. You almost certainly didn’t pay them. This is your career. You need to suck every bit of value out of their notes you can get. You might get more notes after you fix those problems, but likely your critique pool is finite. Unless you’re at the point where you don’t need notes from anyone but your editor anymore, you need to fix as problems as possible before you use up the next resources in that pool.

And then you sleep. Hopefully better than I did. Maybe with the help of schedule 4 pharmaceuticals.

The next installment awaits...
Slouching Towards Amazon: LTUE Post Mortem