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.