Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Almost Next-Month

We have a little tradition in our family. When something fun is coming up (usually for the kids for whom counting down days is very fun!) we will talk about how long is almost left. Like, "Your birthday is almost tomorrow," when it is two days till the birthday.

Well, today is a special day, because my book is coming out almost-next-month!!! I have so been looking forward to being able to casually tell people, "Oh yes, my book comes out next month," and as of tomorrow, I can!!!

Today also makes thirty-five days till Wings comes out. Five weeks exactly. Somehow that seems like a lot closer than six weeks. Like, more than seven days. Does that make any sense at all??

And let me tell you about my next five weeks! They are Craaazy!! This week is revisions, revisions, and more revisions. Next week I am going to my mom's house in the hopes that I can actually finish said revisions. While we are there we will have Easter and my daughter's sixth birthday. Then I come home to the rush of finals and putting our current house on the market the week after that. Week four is Kenny's graduation (!!!) from law school complete with a big graduation ceremony and party. The day after we have a big dinner for a bunch of authors here in Utah. And then one week to frantically pack for tour, and I will be in Arizona, signing at Changing Hands Bookstore, the day that Wings comes out. Whew! (And don't even get me started on the wild rush that will be happening the six weeks after that, culminating with, yanno, moving!) So yeah, good times!

So one last post on edits . . . well, probably the last post . . . I guess we'll see.;) I wanted to talk about what actually changes. I think it is every author's nightmare to get that first ed letter that says, "Well, we like your main character, but can she be a guy? Also, we love the plot, but can they be hunting for a legendary lamp instead of trying to survive in the Antarctic? Also, could you please cut about 40,000 words? this book is too long." And then the author can do nothing except yeild to the demand of her editor and basically re-write the entire book.

I've never actually heard of an ed letter that bad. And even big changes (Can you just nix this minor character?) are usually just that; a minor character. (I realize that doesn't make you feel better in the moment.) Most ed letters are not about changing, but enhancing. Consider a black and white picture of a girl standing beside a lamp-post. I think the scenario that a lot of aspiring authors have in their head is an ed letter that goes like this: "We don't like the lampost, can it be a tree instead? And that dress, it's awful. Can she be wearing overalls? And her hair is so short, please make it long." When really, most ed letter go like this: "We love the girl, but she is black and white. Can we put her in color? How about some vines on that lampost? With purple flowers maybe? Or red? What do you think? And the background is just a grey slate, what do you think about putting in scenery? A lush meadow. Perhaps a sharp city-scape! You can do whatever background you want, but we need a vibrant background! And you might consider airbrushing her clothing just a bit so you can't see the mud on the hem or that tear in her sleeve."

Do you see the difference?

When an editor buys a novel, they see the girl and the lampost. If they are going to buy it, they need to love the girl and the lampost. The editor will almost never ask you to change the girl, or the lampost. (Please tell me you are still following my metaphor here!) It's not about changing the girl and the lampost; it's about enhancing them so that everyone can see in the photo, what your editor saw.

Let's go to my edits specifically. Now first off, I am a minimalist. When I first started writing I wrote a huge fantasy tome (it seems like everyone has to do that once and get it out of your system . . . unless you are Brandon Sanderson, and then you get paid to do it.:)) When I realized that no one was going to look at it the size that it was, I sat down with my shears and cut 60,000 words.

And it was painful. Excruciatingly so. By the end I wanted to cut the last 20 pages just so I could be done!!;)

But it made me a minimalist writer. My ed letters always ask me to add. Always. And I'm okay with that.

So here were the big things I was asked to do in my ed letter:

-Add at the beginning (I have a series of events that, although they are important to the plot, can be lengthened or shortened without affecting the plot. Tara wanted more . . . I hope forty extra pages was her idea of more . . . .)

-Add a few more hints to the mystery. I am good at being subtle. So good, in fact, that nobody notices.:D Note to self, be a little less subtle.

-Work on my pacing. I always have to do this. I'm not good at pacing. It is something I work very hard at. Usually several times.:D

-Focus more on interesting elements instead of mentioning them and then letting them fall to the side. I have to remember that I have been living in this world for two years; so the things that are no longer that interesting to me, are still interesting to the reader.

-Enhance, enhance, enhace. Make characters more fun/hawt/compassionate/smart/etc. Give the scenes more mystery/tension/romance/etc. Just make everything in color, instead of black and white.

And that is basically my ed letter minus spoilers.

It's not about change, it's about bringing out what's already there. So really, don't be scared of the ed letter. It is a TON of work, yes--and feel free to be afraid of that!--but as far as actual "change" goes, if your editor didn't love the girl and the lampost, she wouldn't have bought the book in the first place.

How's that for a full-circle metaphor?;)



Nerd Goddess said...

Very good post. Editing is something that's always been intimidating to me, simply because I have yet to try my hand at it on any large scale.

I must also add, that I asked my husband to buy me your book for my birthday (thinking that it came out in March) so the poor fellow had to embarrass himself in front of the BYU bookstore employees, who informed him that it wasn't due out for another few months.

The moral of the story is that I'll be buying your book when it comes out. Yay!

Maprilynne said...

How bad is it that I am like, Yay! The BYU Bookstore employees know someone wants my book!!!;)

*Kara* said...

Busy, busy girl!! :) Fun stuff ahead!

I am insanely curious about the 'details' of your ed letter... :)

cindy said...

great post, a. and eeeee! one month! *waves flag* =DD

jessie said...

I totally followed your metaphor.

Aqui Wolfe said...

@0@ Crazy!!!! And fun!!

Becky said...

I'm so excited for Wings to come out, and also I cannot tell you how glad that I am that it is coming out in England at the same time! I've already made all my friends (both in England and in America) promise to buy a copy!

I loved this post on ed letters. I feel like that's always been a major fear of mine, and one of the reasons why I've been holding back on trying to get published before I finish university.

Also, whatever happened to the fantasy tome?

Thanks for posting!

Shelli said...

so xcited about your book - congrads. I wrote about revisions too today - though I am in a different place than you are :)

Tracy said...

Hey, doesn't your book come out next month? Just thought I'd be the first to officially write it on your blog :) Thanks for the informative posts. It's nice to know what to be able to expect when I get to that stage. I hope they run out of your book and have to print more!

Jenn Johansson said...

That is actually fascinating. I always wondered what editor change requests looked like and now I know. Like you, I am a minimalist and I think that adding wouldn't be so bad. :) I'm so excited for Wings to come out!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've always wondered what's in a ed letter. Thanks for the educational moment. Looking forward to reading Wings. :D