…that I will not touch chapters one through thirteen of my Monkey Man sequel again until my editor has finished with them. Any editor who has ever worked with me knows that I am a tinkerer. I can’t look at anything I’ve written and NOT tinker with it, no matter what stage of the publishing process we’re in. Even when I do a reading, after the book is published, I revise as I read it. Editors have to practically pry the manuscript from my fingers at the very end because there’s always “just one more thing” I want to fix.
This probably explains why I got an e-mail from my editor last weekend informing me that 1) there wasn’t going to be a substantial rewrite (no big structural or recasting changes); we were going to move straight to the nitty gritty stage and 2) the nitty gritty stage would begin at the end of the week.
I had not even reread the manuscript since I turned it in in May. I needed to do that. Fast!
From my Editor’s e-mail on Monday: “If you’re reading over the ms. again today and want to add anything in, I probably won’t be going back to the line edit until Thursday.” [Translation: You have until Thursday to tinker.]
From the e-mail I wrote to her yesterday: “I have indeed made some minor changes as I’ve been reading. Do you want me to send you my revised manuscript at the end of the day today so you have it for tomorrow? Or should I wait to send you anything until I get line edits back from you? [Translation: Okay, I’ve done quite a bit of tinkering. Can I please tinker just a little more…at least until I get line edits from you?]
Her response: “Why don’t you just forward the revised ms. tonight or tomorrow? If you’re not done, you could send me the first half.” [Translation: Please STOP tinkering. If you must continue tinkering, just tinker with the second half because I’m not going to get that far tomorrow anyway.]
So I sent her the first thirteen chapters today. In my defense, the tinkering I want to do in chapter fourteen IS editor approved. She told me on Monday this was something that needed to be addressed; I just haven’t done it yet. From my e-mail: “I’m sending you the first thirteen chapters for now. Aside from that one scene with the photo album, I don’t think I’m very likely to make more changes to the first thirteen chapters until I get edits/queries from you.” [Translation: I’m going to try really, really hard not to tinker with those first thirteen chapters. But if I absolutely have to tinker, this is the scene I’m going to tinker with. Oh, and by the way, when you send me those line edits, I get to tinker again!”
Her response: “I’m not anticipating any rewriting on your part here, either…” [Translation: Leave those first thirteen chapters alone!]
So there you have it…the editorial process at work. Actually, this editor knows how to handle me. (Come to think of it, ALL my editors know how to handle me…they’ve all been willing to work with me more than once, at any rate.) She just doesn’t give me too long sit with a revision. 🙂 No, seriously…this is the way we’ve done it on all three books…I give her the first half of the manuscript to copyedit while I tinker with the last half. Then I turn in the second half of the manuscript when she’s ready for me to address the queries she made on the first half. I get one last chance to tinker with the whole thing before the manuscript is typeset, at which point I try really, really hard not ask for more changes unless it’s really, really important. (I don’t always succeed there.) Then the book is published.
I remember when I was really stressed about this manuscript…I didn’t like the outline I had originally proposed and my editor didn’t like the changes I wanted to make to the story structure…and time was running out. The publisher was expecting a manuscript and I wasn’t sure I would be able to deliver. But I talked to my agent…and I talked to a couple of trusted friends…and finally I talked to my editor. And we got the story on track. That really was the big revision phase right there. There was a huge amount of back and forth…we probably had more discussion then than we ever had at the revision stage of the other two books we did together. We revised and reshaped the IDEA…and then I wrote the book. A little backwards maybe, but it seems to have worked. As I reread the manuscript this week, I was pleasantly surprised. It was way better than I remembered it.