Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Along the Way

So I've been kind of quiet about the fact that for the past month (six weeks?) I've been editing my fourth book. There are a ton of reasons for this... But I think it comes down to the hard truth that I've never had to edit like this, and it's been a bit of a humbling experience for me. With my first three books, the editing was fairly light--scrap this paragraph, change this word, insert a comma here. I used to tell people: "I love editing!" Of course I did. I didn't know what editing was.

But when my agent saw this manuscript, she suggested some serious edits. Characters needed to be revamped, plot lines needed backbone, the ending had to be fleshed out. It's been an adventure, let me tell you. Hard at first, a learning experience in the middle, and great as I approach the end. At the risk of sounding proud, I have to say that I think this is going to be a fantastic book. I'm really, really happy with it. But it's been a long, hard road...

I'd like to share a few things with you that I've learned along the way.

  • Critique is important. Handling it well is even more important. (It's easy to get defensive when someone sees problems with your work. But once I got over myself, I discovered that most of the criticisms were right on. I believe my book is infinitely better for this.)

  • In the midst of serious critique, encouragement is a balm to the soul. (I literally scoured my manuscript for hints of positive feedback. Emails, comments, and notes from readers kept me from giving up altogether. You played a big part in this--thank you!!!)

  • My celebrity look-a-like is Grace Kelly. (Yup, sometimes editing means surfing the net while you try like mad to reconcile your vision with other people's--very valid--input.)

  • Just like no man is an island, no author ever works solo. (A book is a collaborative effort--anyone who tells you otherwise is--conveniently?--forgetting the people who contributed heart and soul to the project. Friends who encouraged, spouses who took care of children or did extra loads of laundry, critique partners who made story-altering suggestions... the list goes on.)

  • Sometimes, an editor can be wrong. (Or at least, not understand your vision for your work. When that happens, you have to politely do your thing. It is, after all, still your book.)

  • Magic Eraser will take permanent marker out of light gray counter tops. (Hey, life goes on, even when you're editing. Thank goodness I caught my little one before he decided to decorate more of our house.)

  • We should always, in everything we do, strive for excellence. (I'm embarrassed to admit that with all these edits staring me in the face, I honestly felt for a moment, "Ah, come on. It's good enough." I'm horrified to think that thought ever crossed my mind. No, it wasn't good enough. And I'm so thankful for my incredible agent who told me so. I want to give myself 110% to everything I do, even if it means more work. Even if it means admitting that it wasn't perfect the first time through... Even though it's hard.)

I'm going to leave you with a few stats about my edits. I hope that this encourages you in whatever you may do (writing or not). We may not get it right the first time, but I believe the hard work is worth it every time.

-I scrapped two chapters. Not a sentence remains.

-I completely re-wrote two chapters. Major scenes were reworked and changed.

-I wrote two brand-new chapters.

-I restructured a secondary character from the ground up. He did a 180 degree personality shift.

-I amped up my love scenes (see yesterday's post).

-I wrote an epilogue.

Was it worth it? For both the experience and the book, YES. I have learned so much in these last several weeks. And, I can't wait to share this book with you. I'm so excited about it. I don't want to give anything away, but this book has it all... Mystery, romance, tragedy, comedy... And the most loose-ends-tied-up ending I've ever written. For a girl who grew up reading nothing but postmodern literary fiction, that's saying a lot. ;) I guess I really am learning something along the way.


  1. This advice is wonderful! I cannot wait to read your you have a release date yet? I'll have to tuck away the magic eraser tip for the future.

    Now I'm off to go find my celebrity look alike. That's way too much fun to pass up. :)

  2. My pub date is May. I think. Since I had some extra editing to do, it might be pushed back a bit. As soon as I know, I'll share. :)

    Ooh! I can't wait to see your celebrity look-alike! Post it, will you? ;)

  3. Hi, Nicole!

    Wow, that is a lot of editing! But it will definitely be worth it. Thanks so much for sharing about your journey with it. It really encouraged me! Have a great day!

  4. I appreciate your advice in this. I have written a lot of of which was a monolouge from Mary's perspective. I had hoped to have it played out in our church, but when the pastor saw it, he sent it back to me requesting a rewrite on certain things...and I broke down inside. Didn't take it well...shut down about writing for awhile...took it so personally.
    Now, looking back, I get what he was saying...but as I listen to published authors speak and read about your paths into publication, I realize that a lot of work goes into your pride...into bringing it down. :)
    I can't wait to see the new work...I am sure it will be great!!
    PS - I love the Grace Kelly and Magic Eraser stories! They made me smile! :)

  5. PS - I got a hot looking Nichole Kidman as my celebrity look alike!! Putting on my blog today... Woo Hoo!! ha ha

  6. Thanks for the advice! Since, as you know, I've emailed you about it before. ;) Because one thing I DEFINITELY need to do is bring myself out of the clouds when it comes to writing. I try to write everything perfect the first time, then get mad when I re-read it and it sounds like garbage. Duh, of course it sounds like garbage after the first draft. That's what first drafts are for! But try telling me that. ;) Have a good day!

  7. You're welcome, Kristin!

    Bina and Lauren, I know how hard it is to separate yourself from your writing. Often, the words that find their way onto paper feel like an extension of your very being... It reminds me of my son's first haircut--he thought that when the stylist cut off his hair, she was cutting off a piece of him! I feel like that all the time with my work. But I think we have to learn to hold our writing loosely if we hope to improve.

  8. Nicole,
    Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog. As time passes, it is still comforting to know that I am not alone in my grief. It makes me so sad to have this in common with so many other women. I wish it weren't so...for all of us.
    Havah came in the mail today from the giveaway! Can't wait to open it up!

  9. My celeb look alike was Jessica Biel...although hubby and I both agree I don't really look like her. Still fun to do though! And then I uploaded a picture of my hubby to see who his celeb look alike was...and it was..drumroll please...Kat Deeley from So You Think You Can Dance. Yea, umm...we forgot to change the sex from female to male. :)