When I got home from work Friday afternoon there was a big yellow package waiting for me at my front door. I got excited for a moment.
No, the boots I wanted are way out of my price range at the moment. And any books I might have ordered wouldn’t have come in a box that big. It turns out the package wasn’t a box at all and it didn’t come from any store. It came from St. Martins Press. From my editor specifically. It was my manuscript. My edited manuscript. All four hundred pages of it, along with a four page letter from my editor.
I had been waiting for it come for months. And be honest I was nervous about what my editor had to say. I know I have weaknesses as a writer. We all do. And I have been rejected before. I have had others read my work and give their opinion but this time was different. This time… I don’t know. It actually counts. This is my first book. The first thing I’m putting out there for the world to see and while I want it to be the best it can be, while I want people to love it I was afraid of having it picked apart. Of course we all want to get that note from the editor saying that this is the most brilliant thing ever written and you don’t need to change a thing. But that just ain’t gonna happen. An editor’s job is to point out what could be better in a book and push the writer to make it so.
I tore open the package, sat down at the my kitchen table and read the letter from my editor. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. And after reading it four or five times, it’s not bad at all. The letter was only four double spaced pages with headers and bullet points.
Sadly the title is probably going to change. I get the reason why. From a sales and marketing perspective Fat Bottom Girl doesn’t scream out romance. I know titles get changed all the time. Many authors have titles picked for them even before the book is written. Our big problem is that nobody seems to know what to call it. It was already changed once before submission to the publishers. I’ll probably be calling on all my writer friends to help me brainstorm a list. (So get your thinking caps on people!)
The great thing about having a good editor is that she pointed out little things in the manuscript that I didn’t think deeply about. And it had a lot to do with over reaching themes about trust and motivation and pain. Questions like why did you write that, or why is your antagonist the way he is, or what underlying thing makes them want to be around each other, threw me for a loop. Holy crap. I never thought about it. I assumed I knew my characters inside out but I guess I don’t. I have to go back and really get inside their heads.
Then there are the little things. The sloppy things I failed to clean up like random spaces before punctuation.I still have a problem telling and not showing. I’m supposed to show my hero in misery not just tell you he is. I also have a dirty mouth and it has been suggested that I clean up the descriptive language in my steamy love scenes. (Bummer.) Those things I have no problem fixing but it was those comments like, “I want to see more of an emotional connection between____ and _____. Or , you need to raise the stakes in their individual journeys that I have no idea how to tackle.
I actually lost sleep over it. How am I going to fix it? What am I going to change? How am I going to make it better? When am I going to have time to do it? For two days I stared at the huge pile of papers on my table avoiding it, like I avoid the dentist. But I can’t avoid it. Because my editor took a chance on a new writer and St. Martins Press is actually going to give me money for this book and two others.
So what did I do? I called my mother. I don’t care how old I am sometimes no one can make things better but mommy. She told me to calm the hell down and take a deep breath. I did and Sunday afternoon I sat down and started going through my book. Some things became clear to me others I’m still baffled by. But I’ll get through it because frankly there is no other choice.
What about you? How do you tackle editing? Enjoy it? Hate it? Any and all comments are welcome.