• Chris OBrien

Revising your book: Biggest Fan, Toughest Critic


You can tell when an interview hasn't gone very well. The interviewers are checking their watches. Everything still feels incredibly formal. And they don't say things like, "When can you start?" or, "Hey, you wanna help us pick up the keg?"


I had one of these interviews fresh out of college that ended with, "We'll get back to you in a couple of weeks." Oof. Never the best sign.


I called my mom on the walk home, told her about it, and--without missing a beat--she replied, "Well, maybe they just needed two more weeks to find you an even better role."


Thanks mom. I don't think that's true, but still, thank you.


I told Ashley about it when I got home and there wasn't the same response. She turned into a basketball coach breaking down film. "Alright, so how'd you answer this? What'd you say here? Did you have any questions ready? What were they?"


The Fan and the Coach. The one who thinks you can do no wrong and the one who helps you see what went wrong, then helps you get better.


When it comes to feedback, both of these responses are equally important. Both are needed and helpful in different ways.


After an interview, or writing a rough draft to a book, you need there to be at least one person giving a standing ovation. "Yes! Bravo!" Even if the work is not good (yet), we gotta have that one person who's saying things like, "Hey, I like it. I loved that part here. And here. That was great." This person helps you keep going or, if you've just received some bad feedback from someone else, the Fan keeps you from going into that downward spiral of, "I suck. This sucks. What was I thinking? I can't do this."


You need some readers like Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman's characters from Meet the Fockers who will proudly print out a 9th place ribbon.


It's not that the Fan is being insincere either. I go into this role all the time. People will come to me with a new idea for a business or movie/book idea and my response 99.9 percent of the time is, "Yes! That's awesome! You should totally do it." I'm like the improv group that says yes to any suggestion shouted out by the crowd.


And I'm being completely sincere in this encouragement. I love new ideas and know how much they change and evolve once you get started on them. I believe the only thing that's important at the beginning is actually starting it. The worst thing someone can hear from someone in that vulnerable early-stage idea moment is, "That's stupid," or, the less intense but equally painful eyebrows scrunched together, "Um, I don't get it..."


But what I've noticed is people will go to my wife, Ashley, when they're actually more serious about their project. And sometimes these are the exact same people! They go to me when it's still a, "Hey, I was thinking about doing this." They go to Ashley when it's a, "Alright, I'm actually gonna do this. Please tell me if I'm crazy..."


My wife's encouragement is like a CEO breaking down the logistics. Have you thought about this? What about this? It doesn't have that peppy cheerleader feel, but it's way more helpful at that stage of the project than what I provide as the Fan.


Hearing a yes from the Fan gives you the confidence to get started. Hearing a yes from the Coach (much harder to get) gives you the confidence to finish the work.


And here is what makes the editing of a rough draft such a challenging stage when writing a book: It's both early AND late in the process.


Early because it's still a year or more away from being finished.


Late because on the scale of, "I have this idea for a book" and "Book is published" a rough draft is really far down the line. A ton of people start the race, have an idea, but not many people see it through to a finished rough draft.


Which means, because it's both early and late in the process, you need both the Fans and the Coaches in your editing group. If you can find one person who can function as both, that's amazing. And incredibly rare. Buy them dinner immediately.


As you assemble your 5-9 person Supreme Court of Editors, keep this all in mind. You want a few Simon Cowells in the mix. You want your Mom in there too (my mom and dad are in my Supreme Court. They're also the only two guaranteed sales of any of my books 😉).


You need De Niro's character from the Meet the Parents movies, but don't forget to have a few Barbara Streisand/Dustin Hoffmans in there too.

De Niro: I didn't know they made 9th place ribbons.
Hoffman: Oh Jack, they've got them all the way up to 10th place.

Video: Dustin Hoffman shows off the "Wall of Gaylord."


I started this part in third person, "Chris O'Brien is the" but felt way too weird. So hey, thanks for reading. Hope this article was helpful. I am the Founder of Long Overdue LLC. Long Overdue helps people who have always wanted to write a book with the writing/editing/publishing process. If you have a project that you need help on, fill out our contact form, email library@longoverduestories.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn.


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