They're Heeere ... Or, Coping With Revision Requests
By Cameron Dokey - March 21, 2012
I had it all planned.
My second blog post was going to be all about why you should always read the acknowledgements page of that book you're holding in your hands. The post was going to be touching and profound--all about how who an author thanks can tell a story all its own. And then, of course, I would get to mention all the people I'd like to thank for my many wonderful years of being a working writer.
That's when IT arrived. The e-mail from my current editor saying that the editorial packet was on its way. Not just a letter mind you, an entire freaking PACKET. Two copies of the manuscript to accommodate the notes of three different readers. So I did what any sensible writer would do under the circumstances: I got depressed. Then, I got pissed off.
Now, lest you think my editor is being unreasonable, I must here confess that I had the very great honor of being asked to supply the launch book for a brand new series. (More about this in a later post.) Launch books are sort of like first chapters: the pressure is on. Not only do I need to be creating something that stands as its own story, I need to be laying the groundwork for the books that will come after mine. Plus, my editor is actually part of the creative team who came up with the series concept in the first place. You spotted that word "team," right? So we were already talking about more than one person right from the get-go. I knew all this, but even so ...
There's just something about knowing that criticism is on its way that can really get a writer down. Oh, sure, you get the occasional comment like, "Really nice!" or a smiley face in the margin. But mostly an editorial letter is the nitpicky stuff. Slow the pace down here, pick it up there. And sometimes you get notes like, "This is totally unappealing. The character would never do that." Whose characters are we talking about?
On the plus side (and there really is one), once I actually wrap my head around them, working on revisions can be rewarding. Nobody, I don't care who you are or how long you've been writing, nobody gets it "right" the first time around. There are always things to strengthen, to punch up or tone down. And let's face it, writers self-edit all the time. When I first started, I ended each day by making a list of moments I'd powered through but wanted to finesse a bit more. Then, I began each day by going back in and working on those moments. It was great, sort of like limbering up. After that was done, I'd proceed to moving the story forward for that day, ending with a new list for that day's work, keeping the cycle going. I still do this, as a matter of fact, but now I keep the list in my head. I no longer need to write it down.
So where does this leave me, you may ask? Still waiting for the packet to arrive. Not quite so angry or depressed, but still living life inside the dread zone. A place I will inhabit until I've actually opened whatever it is that's coming at me, read through the notes, and gone for a really long walk/stomp. Then, I'll come home, power up the laptop and get to work. That's when I'll be doing it, that thing that I do best and love best of all. I'll be writing. And then I'll be just fine.
Though I do have to wonder: Did she send that packet overnight, or second day air?