The raptor recently linked me to a blog post by Joe Abercrombie about his editing process, in which he makes a very good point indeed:
Making changes is always a bit tricky. Although you made all this stuff up, and can make any change you like, I find I get into a mindset of, ‘I can’t change that, that’s what happened.’
I have this exact problem on a regular basis. The events of the story are facts, set in stone, despite their origin in my imagination. Making the leap back to ‘it’s all in your head’ can be surprisingly difficult, but that flexibility is an essential part of the editing process.
The problem, I think, is one of belief. In order to write the story with passion, I have to believe in it on some level. Also, if the characters or events aren’t believable then you’ll lose your audience, right? So once you’ve crafted this story, and these people, how do you change them? It sounds dead simple – it’s just squiggles on a page, after all – but there’s quite a psychological hurdle to jump. You have to break some level of belief.
Of course, once you’ve accepted that the change is necessary then it’s just a question of mental effort. The trouble comes when belief in the story as it stands stops you from seeing where change is needed. This is where beta readers come in. All hail the mighty beta reader!
If you’re expecting a tip or solution, by the way, then don’t. I said at the top that this is a regular issue for me. As far as I can see, it boils down to a choice: either you carry on believing in the original version and ignore your beta readers, or you take a deep breath and have to break something.