So my book is in the thick of the editorial process, including going around to a few early readers, mostly my friends, for comments/editorial feedback, as well as with the editor at the publishing house.
I’ve always found taking feedback to be an excruciating process. I’ve never really taken criticism well, from my years in school where my essays rarely raised much negative comment, to job reviews and meeting with dour HR people with impassive faces. So taking feedback on my book, a labor of love for over six years, is definitely not one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. This, despite the fact that it’s far, far better to get feedback on a manuscript before it’s published than after, when there isn’t much you can do to change it, and I really should be feeling better about this process than I actually am. However, reading marginal comments and structural edits is almost physically painful for me. It’s just my subjective experience of it.
Sometimes it’s because I do have a massive plot hole there which I was hoping my reader wouldn’t pick up on. Sometimes it’s because there’s a blind spot of mine which I hadn’t noticed before and which now seems terrible and glaring and which I’m not even sure I can wholly fix without completely changing my worldview. It seems to be a moral failing, almost. For example, when one of my readers who is one of the SJW persuasion (I say this with only the greatest affection) pointed out potential racial tokenism or even (surprisingly, as my book has a female protagonist) a preponderance to give males action roles, I immediately started to question whether I was in fact being racist or sexist without realizing it, which leads me down the whole rabbit hole of questioning my woke-ness or liberal/feminist credentials.
The fact is that, having imbibed the literature I imbibed, having been brought up in the society that I was, and despite my best efforts, perhaps I am unconsciously racist or sexist. On the other hand, I am trying to fight the battles of representation for people who are like me in literature at all, and I can’t fight on all fronts of the battle. I can’t be all things to all people, and I shouldn’t have to apologize for not doing so. Every author shows a slice of life and not every project is about depicting every sector of society or representing every experience. Even so, I feel disturbed and wonder if I should be cringing at my own work.
Going through the editorial process has been intense. Although I have never given birth, it is a little like what I imagine giving birth is. Sometimes I feel nauseous, I’m constantly worried whether the book will have severe defects, I wonder what people will think of it when it comes to exist. Xuwen, my best friend and a computer programmer, says the process of taking in feedback and taking it into consideration sounds a lot like the process of debugging. You soft launch it (let beta readers read it) and then people come back to you with a whole list of problems, which you then have to order in order of priority and fix one by one to the extent that you can. And then you go through the process again. And again. Until you run out of time, and then it’s print date, and that’s it.
We haven’t gone to print yet, but it is getting increasingly (worryingly) closer. I worry about not getting enough feedback. I worry about getting too much. I treasure my beta readers and also resent them when they point out a problem I hadn’t seen before. I’m a mess. I hope I get this thing in shape before this thing sees the light of day.