When good isn’t good enough

Last fall I decided to try something new and submitted my latest novel to a new publisher. In this genre, there’s not a lot of difference in terms of contracts, but I wanted to explore other avenues and see what else was out there, and if the experience differed at all. It’s also not uncommon for authors to write for more than one publisher.

Editing is about more than grammar and punctuation; a good editor is brave enough to tell you where and how you can improve. It’s easy when you’re writing to become enamoured with your own words. But it’s heart wrenching when you realize too late what you could have done differently.

The relationship between an editor and author is a bit like dating. You need to feel each other out. There is give and take on both sides. Like any good relationship they are there to help you grow. And like a relationship, it’s important to find “the one” for you.

I felt very good about this novel—I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written—so needless to say I was a bit taken aback when, after a long four month’s wait, I received a revise and resubmit letter. My previous efforts have all been accepted with no major revisions, so this was a first for me, and a direct challenge to my assertions that I welcome editorial feedback.

The editors took the time to prepare a detailed summary of the issues they felt existed in the manuscript, and after I climbed down off my high horse, I realized nothing in their list surprised me. They were all things I had thought myself at one time or another. I realized I was more upset by the delay in getting this novel to market than by the comments themselves.

I took a week to think about how to incorporate the changes. I was already at work on another story, and so I needed to disengage from that one and get back into this. I spent another three weeks making the revisions (I have a full-time job so I have to work in the evenings and weekends). My approach to feedback and critiques is always that if I can’t justify something as essential to the story or character then the change likely needs to be made. Of all their changes, the only one I truly disagreed with was their desire to see an “I love you” at the end. This is a matter of personal preference and rarely do my characters exchange “I love you’s”; at the same time, I did appreciate that my characters’ feelings were obviously not coming across clearly, so I focused on strengthening that.

The revised manuscript is now back to the publisher. Will they like my changes enough to offer a contract? That remains to be seen. I am still open to further revisions, but I would prefer them to be under contract. What I do know, is that this experience has definitely helped tighten up this novel so that whenever it does make it to print, it will be as good as I know it can be.

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