I received my editor’s notes on May 24th. Read through them. Had myself a good cry (both sobs of joy and frustration).
Then I thought about everything she had said for a couple of days.
On May 26th, I sat down at my computer and began at the beginning. With her notes at hand I started off with the big stuff: mostly shifting scenes to different places which entailed changing everything before and after that scene.
*In my first book (The Curious Misadventures…) I had to move a pivotal scene from the first 1/3 of the book to the last 1/3 of the book. This took a huge amount of effort and time.
Hence an outline, and a critical eye, before sitting down to write a manuscript can save you a lot of time later on.
Fortunately with this book I was just adding a chapter about a 1/3 of the way through and 2 scenes mid-way and at the end of the book.
Oh, and moving a kiss. Turns out it’s very important where you place the kiss.
Then there were the smaller
points, and line edits and those were easily taken care of. *Part of the joy of working with an experienced and savvy editor.
I knew going in that even though there were no massive changes to what I had handed in (plot development, pivotal scenes, characters for instance), a prominent rule of revising is that it always takes much longer than you think it’s going to take.
It’s easy to hold your manuscript in your hand and see chunks of text and tell yourself that you’ll just move this here, and that there and add in a few sentences to string it all together, and voila! Easy as making a souffle. But when we write linearly, well, we write linearly. Each word is linked to the next. Each sentence to the next. Each paragraph… Well you get my meaning. When you excise a paragraph, you leave a big gap and nothing that follows it makes sense. Sometimes you have to go on re-writing for quite a time before it falls back into place. Or it can become completely unhinged. The earlier on in the book that you start moving things around, the more work you have to do.
But that’s ok, because most manuscripts need work all the way along.
It’s not like the first half will already be a perfect piece of work and your editor will say “Oh don’t change a word!”.
“I wouldn’t dream of changing anything,” you answer modestly looking at your shoes. *They are very nice shoes, and expensive and probably made in Italy. I began work on the 26th, and sent it in to my editor on June 11th at 2 pm (E.S.T.). For the two weeks preceding that I wrote (and ripped my hair out) every day including Sundays for an average of 8-10 hours a day.
My bottom actually became numb. A giant callus my doctor informs me. I bought a big loofah. The first week was the tedious moving sections around part, and then writing new stuff that was not tripe.
The first half of the next week was more writing of the new stuff. I finished that on Tuesday 8th. At this point I was positive that the entire book was complete and utter TRIPE. All of it. Even the bits that my editor had said she loved.
Not only that but the premise was laughably idiotic, the writing awful, the characters stupid, stiff and inhuman, and I was the worst writer that ever walked the planet. Fortunately I have felt that way lots of times before.
And Natalie Whipple had just blogged about how every writer has that moment (or hour/day/month) and it meant that you were approaching the end. You can read her blog here.
I kept working. The next morning I found bits of okayness within the awfulness. I started again at the beginning, examined every word, checked continuity, factual stuff, killed as many of my darlings as I could, inspected the entire book from beginning to end with my shiny editorial eye.
I enjoy this part because once I realized that really there was nothing that could not not be cut, I was able to study my sentences with some detachment. I don’t mean I took out all the flavorful words, and stripped it down to verb/noun sentences, but that I decided where less description was needed, where pacing flagged, where I needed a bit of a pause in the action so everyone inc. reader could catch their breath.
At this point, the writing is its own thing (not something that is attached to me so firmly that when I cut a word, I bleed too).
So I was methodical and pretty ruthless and even so I am sure I missed things that my editor will discover and then we will fix them together. There is nothing that cannot be fixed with work. Sometimes that means that you have to cut everything but one sentence, but if the story you want to tell is important enough to you, you will do just that.
Still, as soon as I hit the ‘send’ button, my hands started to shake. This may also have been because most days recently I have forgotten to eat breakfast AND lunch, but I have not forgotten to make a big pot of coffee as soon I fall out of bed. I am now in the aftermath. It is a frightening place. I am reminding myself that at some point you have to shove your book out the door, wave goodbye to it, and then go back in the house where hopefully you have children, a significant other who gives good hugs, a dog with a squooshy nose, and plenty of wine and chocolate. Any combination of these things will turn the aftermath into a calm, quiet, golden time with hours to just sit and read books by other people.