Friday, March 11, 2011

The Going got Tough this Week


This week I had to send a "tough love" letter to a client. In my opinion, their 87,000 word novel needs a major rewrite. A couple of the issues include too much going on, passive writing, and head hopping. But the main problem is that it's all tell, no show. It reads more like a text book than a novel. And that is definitely a fiction no-no.

So...I sent the first 72 edited pages back, explained the issues, and suggested reading through the comments and making changes before I proceed.

Then I said a quick prayer and waited for a response, my stress-related chocolate craving instantly kicking in.

Seriously, you never know how people will react to harsh critique. I try to speak in love and not to offend. I always let the client know my main objective is to help them create a better book and, ultimately, make them a better writer, but still. People often don't  want to hear the truth. I didn't know if this client would respond with a nasty email, go on a defensive rant justifying the errors, or even insist that God gave them this story and who am I to tell them to change it! Yes, I hear this a lot. Hey...I'm all for godly inspiration. But when God "gives" you a story, He wants it to be as excellent as possible. That's why He created editors.

So anyway...when I saw a return email pop up only a few minutes later, I was nervous. I thought surely the client had just scanned over my message and shot off a hot-tempered response. I closed my eyes and clicked, swallowed hard, and peered at the screen.

The first words I saw: "Thank you for your comments!"

What? So not expecting that, but what a feeling of relief. This person went on to express complete acceptance of the feedback I'd given and was actually receiving my advice and suggestions. In other words, this client wants to improve. Wants to learn. Wants  to grow. And if that means more work for them and humbling him/herself by admitting they don't know it all in order to produce a better book, so be it.

There is a lot of work ahead for this client. I don't know what will happen with their book and I don't even know if I'll be the one taking on the project of helping to rewrite it. But the attitude and willingness to receive harsh criticism is refreshing and admirable.

So it seems that my "tough love" letter was tougher for me than the client. While I'm thankful for this client's positive response, writing the letter was one of the toughest things I had to do this week. It's never easy to tell the truth, even when it needs to be told, and even when done in love.

Q4U: What was the toughest thing you did this week?

12 comments:

Susan said...

Hi Lynda...I doubt that anyone likes constructive criticism, even if it's helpful and necessary. One thing a writer certainly must do is develop 1) humility and 2) a tough skin.

Toughest thing this week? Well, give up certain things during the season of "lent." Ash Wednesday was this week, signaling the time of this special time to reflect and sacrifice. Like criticism, it's difficult to give things up but very good to help one get closer to God and develop self-discipline....both of which are good things. Thanks for the question and have a great weekend! Susan

Diane said...

You did your part to help that author be the best they can be and now it's up to them. Thankfully, they seem to want that too. Nothing as nail-biting as that going on here. :O)

Joanne Sher said...

I got note like that once too. I didn't respond QUITE that fast, but it was likely the best thing that happened to my writing in the past year or so. It was hard to hear, but such a benefit to me! Your client is fortunate she has you.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I think its wonderful that you were worried...It means you really care about your clients and that is hard to find. Go glad you got a positive response.
Edge of Your Seat Romance

Lynda Schab said...

Giving stuff up...definitely a toughy, Susan! :-)

Lisa Jordan said...

I'm so glad your client gave you a positive reaction. You're right about it being hard to know how others will react. Shows she has a teachable spirit.

Toughest thing I've done this week is really focus on a chapter that I've been having trouble with for a while. I had to dig deeper and really feel my character's emotions in order to write the scene with the right layer. I managed to get the second draft of that chapter done last night. Today I'll polish it and move forward.

Lynda Schab said...

Prayers that it will come together for you, Lisa. :-)

sarah said...

really glad you got a good response...that she was able to 'hear' what you said. Hardest thing for me this week....let go of worry...trust...and know He's in control in this one area...

Sally said...

Bless you that you care enough to be concerned. I'm working a son through end of high school and scholarship apps., my weeks are tough until May.

Lynda Schab said...

That's really tough, Sally. I'll be in your shoes next year at this time. Ugh. :-)

Dara said...

Tough critiques can be hard to give. I know I dread it during crit group, even though I know the other writers fairly well. And I've learned that as much as tough crits hurt at first, they're often right on target.

Toughest thing (last week) I did...probably going to work through the few days I had of feeling a bit woozy/lightheaded from the pregnancy. Not too difficult; just a bit annoying :P

Lynda Schab said...

Just wait, Dara. You'll be going through the toughest few hours of your life very soon. LoL

How much longer?