I got the first round of edits back on Vamped Up yesterday. Actually, I got the commented manuscript back two days ago and the revision letter yesterday.
Before I’d ever reached this stage…before I’d snagged the best agent on the planet and the most dedicated editor…I wondered how authors viewed their edits. What’s the revision letter all about? What’s the process like? How long do you have until you have to send them back? Then what?
I can’t speak for everyone because, let’s face it, every writer is going to have a different experience with their editor or book and a different process for dealing with the mountain of revisions they inevitably receive.
But this is how I handle (HANDLED, AM HANDLING) it (WITH MY FREAK-OUT THOUGHTS IN PARENTHESES):
When I saw my editor’s email in my inbox, glaring in bold–Book 2 edits–with that little paperclip symbol, I freaked. I got butterflies. I took a really deep breath, and I opened the mail.
The email letter itself was very nice, yet very professional. She loved the book (THANK GOD!) but thinks there’s some issues in my first 100 pages that need to be worked over. (I ALWAYS STRUGGLE WITH THE BEGINNING, SO THAT WAS REALLY NO SURPRISE.) There were overall suggestions I absolutely agreed with. (DUH! HOW COULD I NOT SEE THAT SOLUTION BEFORE?!?) And suggestions that made my nose twitch. (HMM…NOT WHAT I INITIALLY HAD IN MIND…COULD THAT WORK?…COULD I MOVE THAT SCENE AND CONNECT THOSE TWO AND REWRITE THAT ONE AND MAKE IT SMOOTH AND FLUSH LIKE THAT’S THE WAY I ORIGINALLY INTENDED? WOULD IT HAVE THE SAME EFFECT? YES, WITH SOME WORK, IT COULD. AND IF SHE’S SAYING IT’LL MAKE MORE SENSE THIS WAY, I’LL GET IT DONE.) There was also the panic inducing mention of the due date: October 10th. (SURE, THAT SOUNDS LIKE A LONG TIME AWAY, BUT DID I MENTION I’M REMODELING MY KITCHEN? DID I MENTION THAT FOR THE NEXT THREE WEEKS–THREE WEEKS IN WHICH I COULD USE SOME PEACE AND QUIET–I’M GOING TO HAVE A TEAM OF CONSTRUCTION WORKERS STOMPING ABOUT, SMASHING INTO MY CABINETS WITH SLEDGEHAMMERS?) No problem. I’ll get it done (BEFORE THE DUE DATE, BECAUSE YOU ALWAYS SHOULD). And the book will be better for it.
Now when I dove into the book, I was looking for her comments in the margins. (THERE’S SO MANY OF THOSE DAMN RED THINGS! I’M TALKING MAYBE 2 BUBBLES PER PAGE.) I wanted to see where she tripped up in my writing, where the comments slowed down (meaning she was absorbed in the story) and where they picked up (places that still needed work). I noted those in my trusty composition notebook. I fixed some easy-do’s. I highlighted new changes I wanted to make, leaving little notes for myself in the margins. I got reacquainted with the novel and my characters. (WELL HELLO, RUAN, IT’S BEEN TOO LONG.)
The first run through is over. Took two days.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I opened the revision letter. It was four pages worth of suggestions, divied up by character. (ie: Ruan–fix XYZ on page 123. Dylan–go into more detail on her xyz from chap 8-12. Savage–what’s with his blablitty-blah issues in the beginning? Move that to chap x and flop that end part to the middle. Mesh it flawlessly.) (I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE STRUCTURE OF THIS REVISION LETTER! SEE, I’M A HARD CORE PLOTTER. I CAN WEAVE A PLOT LIKE NO ONE’S BUSINESS. I CAN CREATE A STORY OUT OF A SIMPLE IDEA AND THROW MORE COMPLEX ISSUES AT THE CHARACTERS THAN THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH. BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHARACTERS, I TEND TO SPIN THEM ROUND AND ROUND ON MY PLOT STRING, AND FORGET TO TIE SOME OF THEIR ENDS TOGETHER. WHAT I MEAN IS, MY EDITOR POINTED OUT PLACES TO MAKE MY CHARACTERS STRONGER. WAYS TO BRING ABOUT MORE OF AN AH-HA MOMENT. WAYS TO TORTURE THEM WITH THEIR PAST. IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. NO, SHE DIDN’T DO THAT FOR INTERVAMPTION’S REVISION LETTER. MAYBE SHE’S REALIZING MY STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES AND WORKING WITH THEM. I DUNNO. ALL I KNOW IS, THIS IS GOING TO WORK AND MAKE VAMPED UP SHINE!) Seeing all the work that needed to go into Vamped Up and feeling a little overwhelmed, I re-formatted the letter. I double spaced it. (YES, IT WAS FOUR PAGES SINGLE SPACED!) I gave each character his/her own page. I took out the “I thinks” and the “You shoulds” and gave each instruction a 1,2,3 assignment. Now, I’ve got this really tight word doc straight from my editor about what I have to get done. It’s gone from “wouldn’t this be great here” to “get this shit done in order and make it snappy!” Just the way I like it. It’s now eight pages long. (HOLY F#@%& EIGHT PAGES…EIGHT PAGES…HOW THE HELL AM I GOING TO GET THIS DONE. I SUCK. I TOTALLY SUCK. SHITDAMNSHIT! PRESSUREPRESSUREPRESSURE! HEADEXPLOSION!)
Then I closed all documents and put it aside for the day.
I let my mind stew. (OR YOU KNOW, LET MY BRAIN DOWNSHIFT FROM PANIC TO IDLE.)
I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets and stayed up late watching the season premieres of Vampire Diaries (WHY OH WHY, DON’T ELENA AND DAMON HOOK UP ALREADY?!?) and America’s Next Top Model All Stars.
Today, tomorrow, the next day and the next, I’m going to be editing. Non stop. I’ll go down the list, tweak what needs tweaking, iron what needs smoothing. Then I’ll read through it again from the beginning to make sure it’s tight. Then I’ll download it to my kindle and read through it again, taking notes, to make sure it reads right. (THAT’S FOUR READS OF MY 400 PAGE BOOK IN THREE WEEKS, IF YOU DIDN’T CATCH IT.)
Then, and only then, will I send it back to my editor…on October 9th…a day early.