One of the things that drives my battalion commander nuts about me is that sometimes, not often mind you, but just sometimes, I have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. I know that in the past, when looking at revisions or changes to a story, I’ve defiantly done this and the result has been less than perfect.
So let’s talk about the publishing journey thus far since the wonder and woo of NYC and my first sale conference. There has been the requisite contract stuff wherein I read things and pretend I understand and my agent offers a long suffering sigh to reassure me that I have not signed away any children or pets or body parts. Twice. But let’s skip all that and talk about the writing process, not the publishing process (or rather, the writing part of the publishing process.) Because this is where I think things get interesting.
I remember having lots of conversations as I was struggling to find my voice and my format. People told me from the get go that I had that elusive voice but where I struggled – mightily – was in story format. I remember very clearly crying one night talking about I just need someone to tell me what to do with this story and I’ll do it but I just can’t see what’s wrong with it.
Here’s a little hint: no one is going to tell you what to do. At least, that’s not what my team has done for me. My team, and I hope they don’t mind me using that phrase because I really feel part of a team right now, has not said fix this, change this, delete this. When I received my revision notes, it wasn’t directive do x, y and z then move on to 1, 2 and 3. It was very much take a look at this, what about this character arc and are you willing to look at x. Maybe there are editors out there who do that but my team hasn’t done that with me. I think if it had gone that route, I might not have felt like I still had control over this book. So I made the revisions, forcing myself to go slow, chunk by chunk until I felt like I had a clean product.
Now let’s talk copyedits. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet my copyeditor while I was in NYC and we chatted for a while. I think it really helped me on my part because a, I’ve heard a lot of copyeditor war stories out there and to be honest, I’m used to red inking my LT’s stuff. But what I told her in NYC was be brutal. Be as rough as she thinks it needs to be to make the book stronger. So the fact that there’s blue all over the place doesn’t actually terrify me.
What terrifies me is that no matter what the team recommends or suggests, at the end of the day, it’s my book. And they’ve stressed that to me time and again. We want you to be comfortable with this. If anything doesn’t make sense, talk to us. Seriously, how does it get better than that? Cause it’s not like I don’t have control issues and all that, right?
So copyedits, for those of you who don’t know, are basically an overarching story consistency check as well as textual check making sure sentences are clear, are there different ways of saying things or on page 6 your hero is blond but on page 125 he’s bald. I received 4 major overarching story elements that should be looked at along with lots of clean up on the sentences.
Instead of diving right in and going hell bent for leather, I read the story issues notes. Then read it again. Then finally opened the file. What I decided was I could go through and clean up a lot of the little stuff. The sentences. The clarification. Little things. As I ‘m doing that, I’ll look at the overarching story issues, thereby giving myself a chance to read through everything first before I start cutting and chopping.
In forcing myself to slow down and do the mundane first, I think I’m giving myself a better picture of the whole story and the issues I need to fix. By reading through, I can then assess what I need to change and where as opposed to fixing it on the fly and worrying about adding confusion to the mix.
So once more, I find myself having to slow down. To do my very best at getting my process cleaned up. To have a plan before going off half cocked. To ask questions, before I start shooting or in this case, typing.
And on that note, I’m diving back into copy edits before I crash tonight. Busy day again tomorrow.