Okay, now onto the day's regularly scheduled programming...
Last week Lindsay N. Currie said she wanted to know more about what it's like to work on "real" edits. It's a good question and I'll do my best to answer it, but please know that I'm pretty sure that the process is different for every writer, every book, and every editor.
I'll do my best to explain what happened to me as I worked through the process with both THE FIRST VICTIM and CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. Keep in mind they're two very different books in terms of tone and subject matter. Plus, I worked with different editors and for different publishing companies.
Before I begin, I have to say that I enjoyed working with both my editors (Lucia Macro of Avon/Morrow and Charlotte Herscher of Carina Press). Neither of them was the fire-breathing taskmaster I'd had nightmares about. ;-) They're both talented women committed to the work they do.
I'll start today with THE FIRST VICTIM and next Monday I'll spill all about CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN. Otherwise this post will go on and on and on and on and...
I subbed 1st Victim to Carina Press on my own after parting ways with my former agent. That meant it went straight into the slush pile. A couple of months passed and then I received a "revise & resubmit" letter...which was exciting and nerve-wracking. In case you've never seen an R&R letter before (I hadn't) it starts with something like this:
After careful consideration of your manuscript, there are some issues that prevent us from extending a contract offer at this time. However, if you would be interested in addressing these issues through revisions and resubmitting the manuscript, we would be willing to take a second look at it.
Basically the editor is telling you it's good....just not good enough.
Charlotte had put a lot of thought into the letter (it was more than 900 words long) and she wanted some major changes. How major? She wanted a POV character changed to a secondary character and a 2ndary character bumped up to a major role. (If you've read The First Victim imagine that Bailey had a minor role and that FBI agent Chase Morgan had a major one...not a love interest, just a much bigger part.)
I'll admit my initial reaction (right after celebrting I'd gotten my first R&R) was defensive. I thought she was off her rocker. There was no way I could do what she asked and no way I'd want to. (Seriously, I should have just thrown myself kicking and crying on the floor and unleashed my inner 2-year-old's temper tantrum.)
And then I read her note again...because after all she'd edited all of Allison Brennan's books up to that point and I'm a HUGE fan of Ms. Brennan. On the second read, I realized that some of her suggestions made a lot of sense, but there was still no way I could pull them off.
Then I read it a third time...after sharing it with a couple key supporters (who basically told me that I was the one off my rocker)...and I realized that 90 percent of her suggestions were freaking brilliant and would make the story stronger, BUT...there was still NO FREAKING WAY I could pull them off.
But I told her I'd try.
I started with the small things, the ones I knew I could actually do...and then I tackled the bigger (wayyyyy scarier) things.
Eventually I resubmitted my manuscript to Charlotte.
And spent some more time waiting.
And finally Carina Press offered to publish the book!
Hurrah! I'd done it!
Or had I????
Because as soon as the offer was made, Charlotte sent me another revision letter. This one was 1600 words AND there were a gazillion comments in the manuscript.
Yes, that's right. First letter 900 words...Second letter 1600...
It made my head spin.
It felt as though things were getting worse instead of better.
Once again, I started with the small stuff. The things I wasn't afraid to try to fix and worked my way up to the big stuff.
Did Charlotte's suggestions and all the revision make the book better, stronger, more bionic? You bet.
I learned a bunch along the way too. (Like I should keep my inner-two-year-old in a permanent time-out.)
I haven't covered copyedits in this post because quite frankly they make my eyes cross. They also incite me to curse at the computer....a lot. But like regular edits, they're a necessary evil, that help to make a book stronger.
Next week I'll cover the process for CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN.
Until then, Killer Friends tell me this:
If you're a reader: What makes a book a good read for you? Characters? Plot? Pacing? Dialogue?
If you're an unpublished writer: What do you fear about working with an editor? What do you hope happens in the process?
If you're a published writer: What has your experience been like? What has surprised you about it? What do you wish you'd known about edits beforehand?