But what about my Voice!?! What a writer should do when an editor asks for “a few changes.”

parakeet

Hey, buddy! What about my voice?

Last week, I got an email from an editor (she’ll be the heroine of this story, but will remain nameless nonetheless). She asked me to make one change–one very small change–to the story that I had submitted.

Because I trust this editor–she’s very good at what she does and has built a friendly relationship with me–I said I’d make the teeny-tiny change she’d requested.

And then I panicked. 

In the past, I have often made changes for editors. Usually, these have involved cutting length or removing words or topics considered “off-limits” by their editorial policies. I was okay with that, because the meaning of the story is intact, and more importantly, my Voice, my unique stamp as a writer, remained intact.

On the other hand, there have been times where I balked at requests made by editors. Just one example: one editor wanted me to change a major character who was Persian into one who was Moroccan. One of the reasons I’d written the book in the first place was that there are many, many Persian Jews in the U.S. (here in L.A., there are more Jews of Iranian descent than anywhere else in the world, include Israel and Iran), and they have only rarely been portrayed in Jewish (especially children’s) books. I refused, realizing that even if they accepted my manuscript, we didn’t see eye-to-eye. Part of my Voice has always been speaking up for people in my environment who might not usually be heard, and I didn’t want to betray that. We would never be able to create a healthy working relationship.

The editor I corresponded with last week likes my Voice. That one of the reasons I like working with her. So when she requested a “minor” change, I immediately said I would do it. What I quickly realized was that the small change would cause a domino effect throughout my story, requiring alterations throughout.

Because this editor had established rapport with me, I took it on faith that this change would be for the better. I just didn’t know how to do it yet. I floated the story over to a couple of the ladies in my writing group, I did some research, and I tested a couple things out. The key thing I had to do was separate the deep meaning of the story from the form of it. The solution to all my problems appeared after I could make this mental shift: changing the genre of the story from “low fantasy” to “magic realism.”

Thank G-d, the editor told me today that she was pleased with the results.

I really do think the story is better–with a much more sharply articulated theme–than before. This is a credit to an editor who knows her stuff and requested revisions in a supportive, cheerful, very specific way.

SO the message of the post is this–if someone you trust is nudging you, chuck your doubts and take a leap. (Just don’t delete the original version of your story!)

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