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Manuscript Separation Anxiety is Real

Updated on May 10, 2018
Rodric29 profile image

Rodric is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His passion is creating new stories and seeing where they take him.

As hard as it was, I gave one of my books to my editor. Doing so, it felt like I took a piece of my soul and splayed it before all creation to peruse with eyes of derision and bold judgment! It feels like another man is eyeing my woman!

I know! My sentiment is a bit boorish and downright unevolved in regard to my relationship with my wife. As educated as I think I am, those basic feelings of possession and jealous are prominent in my psychological profile. However, if you get my point, that is the purpose of this word-play. This article is about how writers can cope with anxiety due to book separation.

Mama Bear Effect

Speaking to my fellow hubber Bill Holland (billybuc), look him up, he informed me that it is quite normal for writers to feel protective of our work. Of course, he is right! We grow with our characters and fall in love with them as they progress through a story that seems to come alive and write itself!

We cry when they cry and love when they love. We hurt and laugh with them. We die with them. When we have to share them with other people we become conscious of their faults, which may be faults of our own. Are not the stories of any writer a reflection of what is in the reservoirs of that writer's soul? Is that why we can be as protective as a mother bear over her cubs when editors try to change our cubs--books!?


Writers, especially those of us who are just now getting our manuscripts out to editors, need to know that separation anxiety is normal.

The first step of letting go is to admit that there may be a problem with letting go!

With any good editor, there will be change suggestions to the manuscript. Writers live in their stories, they feel and experience everything on a level that is unique--being the creators. Writers need to paint a moving picture with all the sights, tastes, feelings, smells and sounds associated with it.

While engaged in this effort, a writer might forget to explain a particular aspect of the story or follow up on a particular portion of the story--not because he or she is not aware of that aspect or portion. It's because the writer is aware to the point that he or she forgets that an explanation is necessary--hyper-aware. To the writer, it may be such a common thing that he or she does not mention it.

For example, when telling a story about a character set in the 1970's in America, say... New Your City, the writer, if in that same historical period writing to a reader who he or she thinks will also be from that historical period. would not think there is a need to explain 8-tracks (look it up). The 1990's and 2000's writers would regard CD's the same lack of explanation.

No explanation for what FaceBook or Twitter is to current readers is necessary because to most it is common knowledge. With writing, there are some things writers know about characters that are common to them in that manner.

I mention all this to relate that what is common knowledge to the writer may not be common to the reader; so, editors are who help to catch that sort of thing. Editors remind writers to open where we seem closed in writing or close where it seems too open.

Writers, especially those of us who are just now getting our manuscripts out to editors, need to know that separation anxiety is normal. A good editor will understand.

When I told my editor why it took so long to get him my book, he did not behave as if it was a breach of contract. It is not his first rodeo. He told me to take my time. I took weeks of time getting to him!

If a writer is having this anxiety with each book after the first several, there is a deeper issue going on. Once an editor proves his or her trust, the levels of anxiety should diminish naturally.

Focusing on other people's work is a way of washing the brain of the manuscript so that when the rewrites come a more objective look at what changes are needed can follow.

Step 2 is to let go and let live!


During the writing process for the manuscript, undoubtedly some things went neglected. For me, I spent all of my free time eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing my manuscript! Being used to doing that for so long and then turning to regular life will be the best solution to anxiety over the manuscript

Number one, it is out of the writers hands temporarily. Spend time with family and friends. Look at the sky. Watch birds. Work in the garden. Date your spouse. Go camping with your friends. Anything will keep a writer's mind occupied that is neglected during the creative process.

Number two, start another project. Certainly, there are other ideas to be had and put to paper. I went to the old files and started revamping some of my existing projects and contemplating some newer projects I could work on while waiting to hear back from the editor. This suggestion is for those writers who cannot stop the creative process and need to work on something--besides the editor's nerves.

Number three, read other writers works. Inspiration comes from the things we experience. Reading a fellow writer's works may help inspire the next project or the rewrites for a portion of the manuscript when it comes from the editor--and they will come! Focusing on other people's work is a way of washing the brain of the manuscript so that when the rewrites come a more objective look at what changes are needed can follow.

Live a little while the manuscript is getting its makeover.

If there is a deadline, a writer should make sure that the editor is very aware of it in the beginning and set up a notification plan where both can agree

Step three is to let the editor do his or her job.

The editor needs the time to go over the work without undue stress in my opinion. I don't want my editor to feel rushed. Mistakes are made or overlooked if undue pressure is put on professional editors. It takes time to find an editor to trust who is also good at what he or she does. Having to fire one and find another one is too costly in time for me.

To press or not to press...

Depending on the type of editing a writer requires will determine the length of time an editor needs to complete the project. Each case is different. My editor is editing content, punctuation, style, and grammar. This is a delicate process and may take several exchanges to get just right. In my case, I don't have a deadline to get the book out. If there was a deadline, the situation would play out differently. Since there is no deadline for my book, why would I press to hear from the editor?

To press...

If there is a deadline, a writer should make sure that the editor is very aware of it in the beginning and set up a notification plan where both can agree when work will be completed so that rewrites can occur and editing will not suffer. Communication is key in any relationship. When it comes to the manuscript, clear communication about the audience and purpose of the work with the editor (or editors) will produce the best form of the finished book.


A writer needs to understand that the reason he or she hired an editor was to improve the manuscript. Writers must also understand that it is okay to have anxiety over separating from his or her work that has been a part of him or her for the last... however many months or years it took to get it over to an editor! It is okay.

If it was so easy to give away the manuscript t means trust exist with the editor. If it is hard to give away, faith is being developed by a budding writer/editor relationship. Give it time. Anxiety goes away with experience and trust. It did for me--kind of.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson


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    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      10 months ago from USA

      Your article is inspirational. You literally identified (labeled) the emotions I have when I let go of my work to someone who will read and critique it. Sometimes, I become overly defensive about remarks, but in the end, I do know that it is for the better. And, as you say, it is a time where faith is being developed with the writer/editor relationship.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      10 months ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Thanks Bill. I was inspired to give it a go during one of your mailbags when you answered my question about separation anxiety. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. This article is the result.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      10 months ago from Olympia, WA

      It's good that you wrote about this, Rodric. You help other writers to understand when you write about a common problem most of us share....well done!


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