I have been delighted with the attitude of most contributing authors to the men’s anthology in responding to proposed revisions from me and from my editing team. Frankly, I anticipated a lot more defensiveness than I’ve encountered, as the stories are so deeply personal and the guys put forth an exceptional writing effort—some even wrote numerous drafts before submitting their initial manuscript draft to me. The degree to which so many of the authors have been receptive to feedback and to which they’ve been willing to rework their stories reflects their character, strong desire to learn and grow, and their commitment to the quality of our book.
Thus far, the most challenging interaction I’ve had has occurred with John (pseudonym), with whom I’ve been chummy over half of my life. Really wanting to relate many aspects of his adult journey, John balked at the designated manuscript word limit; his initial story was three times as long. At first, he felt that he’d be compromising the integrity of his message if any part was omitted. Even after I clearly explained my rationale for the word limit, John felt restricted and considered withdrawing from the project. After further discussion, he pared down his story from 6000 to 4000 words, a major reduction, yet still twice as long as requested. Once I agreed to relax the word count somewhat, John submitted a story slightly longer than I suggested, yet still with what our team regarded as an excess of “defining moments.”
Firmly, but politely, John reminded me that he was not attached to having his story published and that he was unwilling to sacrifice content that he deemed vital, which included most of his story. Again, we had a lengthy conversation, in an effort to attain a “meeting of the minds.” John came to appreciate my intent with the term “defining moments” and I developed a greater sense of what he passionately wanted to accomplish through his story. I agreed to heavily edit John’s manuscript, while working to preserve all essential content and contexts; he welcomed my efforts.
I felt anxious about receiving John’s reaction to my many proposed alterations. I was pleasantly surprised that he called me the next day and very graciously and humbly thanked me for concisely expressing all that he needed to relate in his story. We acknowledged one another for persisting through a tenuous process and for our willingness to suspend our egos to achieve a higher purpose. As my mother often said, “All is well that ends well.” However, I am especially grateful for what we each learned through our engagement and for John and I growing even closer through our tedious resolution.