Edith here, in New York City with the Wickeds! (Full report on that next week.)
Like many of us, I send my manuscript to an independent editor for a developmental edit before I submit it to my publisher’s editor. I want my book to be the best it can be. I’ve been fortunate to have the talented and insightful Ramona DeFelice Long work on all my Quaker Midwife Mysteries (five, to date), and our own Wicked Sherry has edited almost all my contemporary mysteries.
I ended up with a complicated plot in Quaker Midwife book five, and when Ramona returned my marked-up manuscript recently, I had a LOT of work to do. Of course, she also included positive comments about parts that worked well and characters who shone, which is always nice to hear and buffers the “ouch” observations.
The particularly sticky remarks included the following (vagued and rephrased here to avoid spoilers, even though the book won’t be out until 2020):
- How did X and Y know only the victim would eat the …?
- Why would X inherit whatever he hoped to inherit? Wouldn’t that go to the husband? This all seemed underdeveloped to me.
- If victim and X were related, were victim and Y also related?
- Why now? Why would U wait four years? …
- Why does husband get to live and victim is killed? Wasn’t V the bad person? Etc.
- Z didn’t really have anything to do with victim. Why is he in there?
- Y seems thrown in. Imagine the story without [him/her]. Would it change if you removed this character?
- Because of the opening with character U and also character W, I thought the theme would be [THEME] but it never materialized. As is there’s no central theme or idea to the story apart from the puzzle – and all your previous books had one.
- The victim comes off as one-dimensional. No one grieves for her. No one’s life is changed by her death.
See what I mean? These are not easy fixes. When I was a “younger” writer – meaning several years ago with many fewer completed and published books under my virtual belt – I would have been much more disheartened at this stage. I’d be reciting the litany of: “I can’t do it. I’ll never finish it. The book is a pile of, uh, manure.” And so on. Now? I know better. Still, I wonder why novel #20 had more issues than #19 or #14. I hope it means I’m reaching higher these days.
Also, I got the edits at the start of October and Judge Thee Not isn’t due to Midnight Ink until January 1. So I did what any writer does. I rolled up my sleeves and got started, even though I had no idea how to fix some of the problems.
Like many puzzles, when you change one part, another part needs changing, too. But I started with the easy stuff. The satisfaction of putting a big check mark on something that you’ve finished helps boost confidence.
Then I sat with the hard ones. I went on plotting walks and asked myself what the fix was. I tried one solution. If it didn’t work, I massaged it, amplified it, turned it until it fit. I fixed all I could but a few problems remained.
I printed the dang thing and read straight through, green pen in hand. More solutions revealed themselves. Back to the laptop I went.
After checking one more off the list this morning, I’m down to only two issues to fix, and one is pretty easy. The book is MUCH better for the hard work (thank you, Ramona!). So off I go with the Wickeds to visit the Kensington Publishing mother ship for the day.
News Flash: Many of you heard Tuesday that Midnight Ink, my publisher for this series, is closing its doors. Book four, Charity’s Burden, will squeak into the very last catalog next spring, along with Julie’s second Theater Cop book, With a Kiss I Die (and yes, preordering both of those would be very helpful!). But Judge Thee Not, this book I just worked so hard to fix, will need a new publishing home. Many questions remain about rights and where it will land. Rest assured, it will land!
Readers: How do you cope with a daunting task? Any other list checker-offers out there?
Just take it one day (or one moment) at a time.
You bet, Barbara!
My daunting task I must step away from time to time if just to allow myself to enjoy the moments arounds me. Never Never Never Quit.
I can relate to this, Edith! I’m editing a novel now (the sequel to Color of Betrayal.) I’m taking it one chapter at a time, then running each chapter past my writers group. Good luck finding a home for your series!
Even after writing multiple books, comments from an editor still sting, even when they’re right on target. I’m sitting on a ten-page, single-spaced comments letter from my newest editor, and I’m afraid to look at it (although her comments on my last book were insightful and helpful). But I’ve also had editors who simply didn’t “get” what I was trying to say? My fault or theirs? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. And sometimes you as the writer need a bit of time and distance from your manuscript, to give yourself some perspective.
Good points, Sheila.
Oh, Edith,this is so timely, as I am struggling with massive revisions. I know what parts need the work, but hard to work out just how to do it…and to keep track of it all. It is so encouraging to read what you wrote today. We’re all there at times, right? Thank you. (Horrified at Midnight Ink news -been there myself – and hoping better outcome for their fine mystery writers and staff) Wishing fun in NY to all the Wickeds.
Thanks so much, Triss.
Definitely think breaking down a large task into small portions and placing them all on a list makes it less daunting. Little progresses for the mind are better than great big disappointments to the heart since we seem to take the bad stuff to heart.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I completely agree. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in my life was, “You make your chunks too big.” In other words, the way you break up tasks makes them seem overwhelming. Break them into smaller pieces. It has worked for me for decades. (Though I still get overwhelmed sometimes.)
I’m so sorry about Midnight Ink and how it is affecting you and all the other authors in it’s corral. Best of luck in getting someone new quickly. Like others here, I break big tasks into a lot of little tasks. And, yes, I make lists of all those little tasks. Nothing feels more like progress than check marks! Good for you for getting so many check marks!
Yes, it’s terrible about Midnight Ink. Can’t wait to see where their authors land. (I’m sure the authors can’t, either.)
I was scared of edits at first, but then grew to think of them as “improvements.” So digging into a work and making it the best it can be is my goal. I’m so sorry about Midnight Ink.
The best it can be…the best goal.
Both of them are pre-ordered and I look forward to the fifth in your series – whoever publishes it!
Thanks so much. Much appreciated!
So, the murder victim is a woman. You didn’t think I’d miss a spoiler, did you? 😉
Seriously, I am glad you have such a thoughtful editor and that you take her comments seriously. Sounds like the book will be much better for it. Here’s hoping you find a place for the series to land soon.
Can’t get much by you, Mark!
Sharp eyes, Mark!
Best wishes for the new book’s home and working out all the issues. We know it will all smooth out(until the next book!)
Thanks, Doris! (Barb accepting your good wishes on behalf of Edith since she’s in NYC.)
Thanks Doris – and Barb!
I received one of those tough edits from Ramona. The only way I could get through it was to set it aside until I had time to process.
So sorry to hear about Midnight Ink. I hope book #5 finds a home.
Thanks so much, Liz.
Hahaha. I’m a list maker. On paper. If I accomplish something not on my list, I add it just to check it off. It feels soooo good.
Sorry about Midnight Ink. Hope you find a new home quickly.
Thanks, Barbara. I do the same with lists!
It makes me so sad to hear about the publishing company who will leave so many writers without a “home”. Hoping another will pick all of you and your wonderful book up.
Lists are a necessity for me. I just have to remember where I put them.
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