“Makes you seem insane”: Notes from the editing process

March 21, 2012 | 23 comments

A conversation I just had with my husband:

Me: I’m incorporating your edits to the book, and I don’t understand this note you wrote. You circled four paragraphs and commented, “Makes you seem insane.”

Him: Was that the part where you were interviewing the potential employee?

Me: Yeah.

Him: The way it was written came across weird. It made it seem like you were rambling incoherently, and the candidate was angry that he had to be in the room with you.

Me: Umm…

Him: Wait. Was that accurate?

Me: Sort of. I mean, the scene is written exactly how it happened. Although I did leave out the part where he walked out.

That’s right, it’s editing time!ย At my request, my husband recently went through all 320 pages of my draft and offered extensive feedback. I’m now working furiously to incorporate his edits. And I’m not just praying the Litany of Humility, ย I’m living the Litany of Humility.

Some glimpses into the process:

An impression of what that page was sounding like: “I had had a thought at that time before the other previous time when I was thinking the opposite.”


“Not really showing. Kind of a meta-reflection. Kills the story b/c jolts the reader out of real time.”

“Dragging a bit. Well, actually, this chapter dragged a lot from here to end. Hard to keep going.”

“Oh Yeah! Back to action! Reader exhales, relaxes.”

“No one cares. Jumps around, i.e. back in time. Into your head. So painful.”

“Ugh. Exposition. Hard to read. Where is the plot? I’m yearning to know what this book is about.”

“The book is really hitting stride now.”


So anyway, that’s where I’ve been this week. As always, the process of getting honest feedback is painful but tremendously helpful…and I’ll be very glad when it’s finished.

And now, time to get back to work…


  1. Carla

    Ah yes, you are definitely married to a lawyer!!

    Carla – Henry’s mom

  2. Erin

    It really is uncanny how our husbands are alike. I really know what you mean by living humility!! Mine even edits his co-workers work (they do ask him too;) I’ve yet to attempt a book (and I know he’ll be my best editor!) This week I sent him a blog post for feedback before publishing, his response, “passable but boring” ouch. Although truth to tell I was a little bored myself;)lol. I really laughed at the conversation at the beginning, could so imagine it:) Very thrilling that you are at this stage:):){{}}

    • Diapeepees

      “Passable but boring” — another funny one! Totally demoralizing. Makes you feel like your heart is being squeezed by a vice. But still so laughable. Oh, these all sound so familiar…

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Erin, I laughed out loud when I read this because I think that my husband has actually used those exact words to describe some stuff I’ve asked him for feedback about…and he was right! ๐Ÿ™‚ LOL!

  3. Diapeepees

    Oh my gosh, those edits are just the best to read…only because they are so relatable to anyone who has written…like when you turn an essay into your teacher, thinking it is so an “A,” and then you get back edits like yours and your mouth just drops. Esp. when you think you’ve really captured a stream of consciousness, and the person reading thinks it’s just rambling run-ons. Particularly loved: No one cares. Jumps around, i.e. back in time. Into your head. So painful.
    Thanks for being humble enough to share. Made me laugh. And sorry that there will be more re-working. That’s the hardest to start going over again from the beginning. But will ensure its greatness when it’s done.

  4. January

    Wow, talk about honesty! That’s a quality edit right there. It will all be worth it!

  5. Kathleen Basi

    How terrific that you have a marital relationship that can weather that kind of honesty! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Angie

    Your husband is a fabulous Beta reader – you are so lucky! I have a couple of friends I can trust to be brutally honest with my writing, but my husband is not one of them. When I let him read my first novel he suggested there should be more sex scenes – and that he’d help me “work on them”. *sigh* I love him dearly, but he’s off my Beta reader list ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Karen Edmisten

    Oh, I love it.

    Tom and I have, after three books, found an editing groove that works for us. But it was initially painful and dangerous. It’s like learning how to be married all over again. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Jessica @ Faith Permeating Life

    As someone who works as a freelance manuscript editor, I love seeing other people’s editing comments ๐Ÿ™‚ These are more like what goes through my head when I’m editing than what I actually write down, haha.

    • Steph

      I was thinking the same thing, Jessica! I definitely have these thoughts going through my head while editing, but I don’t ever write them down.

      Although, now that I think about it, I don’t do it in a professional setting, but when I edit my husband’s work I will sometimes let loose like this. It actually feels really good. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Leila

    I love the “so painful” part!! HA HA HA!

  10. nancyo

    I’m SO glad that you included the last edit; love seeing the positive feedback in there along with the “constructive” stuff. And I hope that “hitting your stride” happened somewhere in the first half of the book!

  11. Maggie

    I am hiding behind my fingers, DYING.

  12. priest's wife

    it’s not easy to get feedback- but I’m sure it will help the book be even better— I need to edit a book of my husband’s (really translating it- yikes)- I’ll be as merciful as I can

  13. Leslie Lynch

    I think I’m glad my husband doesn’t want to read my manuscripts…!

  14. Lacia C

    I helped Hubs edit some of his writing last year and basically had some of the same sort of comments your Hubby did (ahhhh and I work at a law firm too!) LOL

  15. Lauren P

    Oh, I am laughing SO hard, these are the best! Thank you for sharing.

    Seriously, you are SO lucky to have an editor like that. Any writer is always going to have blind spots, and having someone who loves us enough to be brutally honest is the best.

    I’m sure you will laugh over these many times down the line!

    (ps – the funniest part is how your husband’s handwriting is totally legible, yet you re-typed all the comments underneath – the comic effect is terrific.)

    Hang in there and Good Luck – can’t wait for this book!

  16. Amanda

    Haha, this sounds a lot like my feedback on my husband’s sermons. Spouses can definitely be the best (ie, brutally honest) editors.

    I especially loved the “no one cares …. so painful” lol!

  17. Steffanie

    I really like reading your article here..This is very interesting and has a sense of humor too…LOL…

  18. Mary

    Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer . . . you are a stronger woman than I am. Yes, everyone needs a spouse as honest as yours, but ouch! Keep up the good work and we look forward to the final version of your story!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Sara

      I agree with Mary – you are a stronger woman than I! My engineer-husband sees black where I see white, and when it comes to my writing, I get really proud and ONLY want to know about typos and grammar; the rest of the story is plain MINE and I’ll tell it in my own style, thank you very much! Writing is so personal that I tend to take criticism personally… It takes a mature marriage to edit tactfully.

  19. Jessica

    Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that the book is “really hitting stride” while someone is tucking in his shirt?

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