Approaching your book as a reader rather than the author helps separate you from the emotional experience of putting your work on the page.
Think about who your ideal reader is. Is your dream to have Megan Fox reading your book bikini-clad on a yacht? (No, just me?) Pretend you’re the Jennifer’s Body starlet when reading and writing feedback. Another approach is to think about who your ideal editor would be. Research published books in your genre and check the acknowledgements to see who edited it. Any distance you can put between yourself and the book will give you a less biased view, letting you slaughter those darlings left and right for the sake of the story.
Find a structure that makes sense for you
Before I began writing my own edit letters, I received ones that were organized in a few different ways. One way was chronologically, going through the notes chapter by chapter. I’ve also received edit letters that are structured by themes, motifs, plot points, or character relationships. If you’re writing an edit letter for yourself, you may want to try structuring it a few different ways, based on how you revise—linearly vs. jumping around in the manuscript—to see what works best for you.
Any distance you can put between yourself and the book will give you a less biased view.
Don’t keep it to yourself
Writing yourself an edit letter can also prepare you to send your book to beta readers, fellow writers who love your work but can also eviscerate it in the most constructive way possible. Being able to first organize your own thoughts and questions about your manuscript will set you up for success when it comes to asking for feedback from others. You could even send a beta reader your edit letter after they read a draft and see what they agree and don’t agree with. It can become a broader tool, in other words, outside of your own internal process. If you haven’t found your beta readers yet, I recommend signing up for a writing workshop, connecting with the writing community on Twitter, and joining online pitch contests to find fellow writers who “get” you.
End on a compliment
Tend to your little writer’s ego at the end of your letter as well as the beginning. Were there scenes that made you tear up a little? Lines that made you LOL? Author Terry Pratchett said that the first draft is telling yourself the story, so be kind to yourself. No first draft is polished, cohesive, or maybe even that good—but you can’t revise what doesn’t exist, and the next draft will be stronger and closer to your dream than ever before.
And don’t forget to end your edit letter with a:
[insert name here]
Because what’s an edit letter if not a love letter to yourself?
Lyz Mancini is a writer living in Catskill, NY. She is a beauty copywriter for brands like Clinique, and has written for Slate, HerSTRY, XOJane, Roi Faineant Press, Bustle, and Huffington Post. She is a Pitch Wars 2020 and Tin House Winter Workshop 2022 alum and is represented by Victoria Marini of Irene Goodman Literary Agency.