Talk to the parts of the person that aren’t being eaten by the depression. Make it as easy as possible to make and keep plans, if you have the emotional resources to be the initiator and to meet your friends a little more than halfway. If the person turns down a bunch of invitations in a row because (presumably) they don’t have the energy to be social, respect their autonomy by giving it a month or two and then try again. Keep the invitations simple; “Any chance we could have breakfast Saturday?” > “ARE YOU AVOIDING ME BECAUSE YOU’RE DEPRESSED OR BECAUSE YOU HATE ME I AM ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU.” “I miss you and I want to see you” > “I’m worried about you.” A depressed person is going to have a shame spiral about how their shame is making them avoid you and how that’s giving them more shame, which is making them avoid you no matter what you do. No need for you to call attention to it. Just keep asking. “I want to see you” “Let’s do this thing.” “If you are feeling low, I understand, and I don’t want to impose on you, but I miss your face. Please come have coffee with me.” “Apology accepted. ApologIES accepted. So. Gelato and Outlander?”"
P.S. A lot of people with depression and other mental illnesses have trouble making decisions or choosing from a bunch of different options. “Wanna get dinner at that pizza place on Tuesday night?” is a LOT easier to answer than “So wanna hang out sometime? What do you want to do?”
SUPER GREAT ADVICE.
First of all, pat yourself on the back.
Seriously, if you’re getting conflicting advice about revision, that means that you’re showing it to lots of different people, which is a courageous step and is really healthy for you becoming a better writer. It also means that you’ve found people to read your work who are giving you real feedback and not just “It’s great!” that family and friends often stop at.
Second, welcome to the real world.
If you go and look at reader reviews at amazon or goodreads, you’re going to see how varied the opinions are. Some people love Twilight with a holy passion. Other people hate it so much their minds explode. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that people react differently to your book, in its first stage.
I’d suggest making sure that you take notes if you go to a writers’ group to get criticism. Write down anything that immediately chimes with you. If you think—that’s what I meant to do or—of course, I should have thought of that, highlight or star or underline or box these comments. And then don’t work on the book immediately. Let it sit for a month and then go back to it and you will probably be able to see more clearly what *you* want to do to make your book better.
I say this as someone who has tried several times to write a novel based on a committee of feedback, trying to please everyone. A little distance can help you see things more clearly and gives you time to forget exactly what other people said. You don’t need the voices of other people in your head while you work. What you need to do is make an action list of things that *you* want to fix. If that happens to coincide with a few items on other people’s lists, that’s fine.
Beware of doing everything anyone tells you to do. Yes, even your agent. Yes, even your editor. Beware of doing nothing other people tell you to do. While I would read an editorial letter a few times during the process just to keep touch with the comments, don’t read it every day. That’s my advice anyway.
Conflicting advice during revision may make you think that no one knows anything. I remember when I was in high school, there were a bunch of students who thought that anyone who graded an essay was doing it completely subjectively because there were no objective standards for a good essay. Au contraire! The same is true for novel writing.
I would pay more attention to people who say things like:
1. I was confused by … .
2. I thought this part was boring…
3. I didn’t understand why this person did this …
I would pay less attention to people who say things like:
1. I really didn’t sympathize with this character…
2. I think you should add more of this …
3. I wish you would take out this part because it annoys me …
And here is something to remember about any critique that you get, paid for or in a writers group or anywhere at all. Your book is *your* book. No one (not even your editor) can MAKE you change something. I’m not saying to be stupid and refuse to listen to people who are trying to help you make a better book. But if you have a reason (even if it’s only that your gut is telling you something), talk it over with an agent or editor. And with other people, you don’t need to convince them. They shouldn’t be looking over your shoulder while you write. They give you feedback. You decide what to do with it.
Questions Without Answers #3: How Can I Tell if My Editor’s Comments are Right or Wrong for My Book?
I can answer this with a zen comment like, “If it *feels* right, then that means that you should go with it.” I’ve heard people say that if it chimes with you automatically, then it’s the right way to go. Or that if you envision the book with those changes and it is closer to the book you wanted to write, then they’re good comments.
Here’s the reality:
No editor is ever going to see the book in exactly the same way that you do. And this is a good thing.
Yes, I have seen people make changes that an editor suggested that I thought were a mistake.
But most of the time, what happens between an author and an editor is a collaboration that ends up with a book that is better than what either of them would have produced separately.
That means that the collaboration isn’t just a compromise kind of situation, where you get some of what you want and the other person gets some of what she wants. It means that you are bouncing ideas off of each other and sparking brilliant new ways of solving problems that you couldn’t do yourself. The best kinds of collaborations between authors do this same thing.
But with an editor, it’s a little different because an editor has a sharp eye for what is working and what isn’t working. Editors also have a bit of an idea (if they’re experienced) of how to get an author to think about something differently, or how to approach a problem in a new way. Sometimes other authors don’t always know how to do that.
So I would say that it’s less important if you immediately feel a zen peace with your editor’s comments and more important if you and your editor work well together. If you can call up your editor and start pinging ideas off of her, that’s a great thing. If she has ideas for you, also a great thing.
I know some people don’t like editors suggesting something. They only want critical feedback of the sort that says—this needs to be fixed. I’m a little more loose about what an editor does. I tend not to mind if an editor (horror!) adds a sentence here and there to my manuscript. I don’t feel possessive of my words that way.
I feel like a novel is a collaboration between an author and a reader, as well, and I have much less control over that. Having an idea in the first place, writing it down and then going through multiple drafts on my own—that’s my first step. But letting other people see it, writers groups, friends, agent, and editor, doesn’t make me feel like the novel is less mine.
That said, I would beware of you as the author feeling resentful about changes you feel “forced” to make. That should never be the spirit of the relationship. And if you feel like you’ve lost the sense of the novel being yours, that’s a problem you’re going to have to work out. You may need some time without the editor seeing the book to play with and get your touch back for it. Same thing with multiple drafts with a writers group or an agent.
Everyone is going to answer this a different way.
1. You’re done editing when your deadline hits.
2. You’re done editing when you say you’re done and you shouldn’t let anyone rush you.
3. You’re never done editing and you are going to keep editing a book in your mind every time you see the words again.
4. You’re done editing when you’re ready to write the next book.
No one can tell you the answer to this question. You make the answer to the question by your own actions.
Does that mean there isn’t anyone who can offer you useful advice? No. Hopefully, you have writing friends who can give you general rules of thumb. An agent can be useful if s/he can say, “Now it’s ready to go out,” which isn’t the same as being done being edited.
But ultimately, there is no expert about this. There is no one who can say, “You edit it six times and then it’s done. The first time, you edit for character. The second time, you edit for plot. The third time you edit for pacing. The fourth time you edit for time scale. The fifth time you edit for language. The sixth time you edit to get details right.”
Yes, there are lots of people out there who will tell you a very specific answer to this question. To me, hearing people pontificate about a specific answer to something like this is really useful to me because then I can add them to my list of people that I don’t ever want to talk to about writing (or politics, either) again.
As a kid, I remember that when adults told me that the answer to something was “it depends,” I got really frustrated. I didn’t want to be part of the adult world where everything was gray and there was no black and white. That’s why I liked math, see? There was an answer and the teacher knew what it was.
But the adult world of writing is even more full of gray than I had imagined. No one knows the answer to my questions. And as an adult, I’m actually really happy about this because the questions I’m asking are only interesting to me because there aren’t any answers.
The reason that no one can tell me when I’m done editing my book is that I’m writing a book that no one has written before, not even remotely. If someone else had written it and there was an answer so that you knew when it was done, I wouldn’t be writing it.
(And as it turns out, after talking to my mathematician friends, this seems to be true in math as well. Mathematicians are not at all interested, once they are on a certain level, in working on problems with obvious answers for the rest of us. They want to deal with questions no one knows the answer to yet, too. So they find problems that are really, really hard. And spend sometimes their whole lives working on them. And this makes them happy. Go figure.)
A lot of writers will ask me a variation on the following:
How do I know if this is the right book for me to be writing?
I want to kind of laugh, but really, it would be mean. Because I know it’s a real question and I know that someone is hoping that another person has the answer to it.
I suspect what they’re hoping for me to say is something like, you know it’s the right book because you have a feeling inside that just chimes. Or, you know it’s the right book because when you talk about it, everyone is super interested in it. Or you know it’s the right book because your agent keeps bugging you to write it.
But that’s not really the way that it is. Sure, there are ideas floating around and some are probably better than others. Some are hackneyed. Some are so overused that at the moment, it might not be a good idea to spend a whole bunch of time on a book idea that might feel to an editor that it’s been overdone.
On the other hand, who would have guessed that it was time for vampires to come back when Twilight was published? Did The Hunger Games anticipate a new trend for dystopia or create one? Why is Harry Potter the school with wizards book that made it big when there are arguably better school with wizard books out there already?
No one can tell you which book you should write. And there’s no magical sense of “rightness” that’s going to make you sure that this is the one. Asking for that is basically asking for a time machine.
All I can say is this:
You make a book the right one by refusing to give up on it.
You make a book the right one by revising it again and again until it’s so good that people love it.
You make a book the right one by pouring yourself into it in ways that make you squirm and embarrass you when people who know you too well, including your parents, read it.
You make a book the right one by pushing aside thoughts of success and writing the best book that you can write.
You make a book the right one by becoming the right author to write that kind of book.
You make a book the right one by refusing to ask yourself if it’s the right one because you’re not going to work on another one until this one is finished, by gum!