I have come to the conclusion that a writer spends most of her time not writing but re-writing. That is certainly what I’ve been doing since I got feedback from my editor on the second full draft of my novel. The gist of her ten-page report on my 181 page (A4), 96 000-word, novel, was that I was trying to cover too much in it. On a number of occasions, she asked how x and y, related to the main plot of the story. The connections were in my head but they weren’t down on paper. But more, importantly, she suggested I cut, (YES CUT!!) large sections of the draft and use them in a different novel. My reaction? Horror of horrors! Those are my words, and they were so hard to write, now you want me to get rid of them? I’d rather you cut off my finger! I was so upset, I wrote her a long letter (almost the same length as her report) explaining myself and indicating where I felt she had misinterpreted my thoughts, or basically was wrong.
But after a few days (okay, weeks) of taking deep breaths every time I thought about what she had suggested, I was brought over to her way of thinking. After all, I’m a first-time novelist, she knows more than me and I’m paying her for the professional advice. So, that’s what I have been doing since September, keeping my mind on the plot for this novel and removing large chunks (nearly 50 thousand words!) to another file to be used for the next and the next. Hence my idea for five more novels.
This experience has made me think about my own defensiveness, seeing my words as if they were literally part of me and resisting anyone who wants to ‘take them away from me.’ It has also made me think about how I deal with defensiveness in others.
According to one internet source, (http://eqi.org/defensive_people_are_insecure.htm), defensive people are insecure, they want to attack, first, in order to prevent others from attacking them and the usual way of doing this is to say the other person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. The aim is to discredit the person who makes them feel bad about themselves. It also says that defensive people do this subconsciously and don’t usually want to cause problems. But they do, because the more upset they get about the slightest criticism of their actions or work, the more upset other people become and it makes for a generally unpleasant experience.
How to deal with defensive people:
1 Don’t argue with them. (It’ll only make you upset).
2 Don’t get upset yourself.
3 Listen to them. Use phrases like, ‘so you feel . . . ‘ , ‘so you are saying that you have made a big effort . . . ‘
4 Move towards a defensive person, not away from them which is the natural response (not wanting anything to do with them).
5 Don’t tell them to calm down. This means you are not accepting them as they are.
6 Do ‘interest based’ arguing. Present the other person’s interests to them and to their satisfaction. ‘So you want to write a good novel, be a good secretary, be a good marketing manager?’ Then, present your interests to them: ‘I would like to feel my advice to you is appreciated’, ‘I would like our meetings to run smoothly.’ This should create an atmosphere of understanding and reduce defensiveness.
I’ll be giving these a try in the next few weeks.