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?