Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ed Letter and Chapter One!

The really exciting thing first (IMO;)).

Harper has posted the first chapter of WINGS!!! You can read it here!(It's a little hard to find; it's under the "Sneak Peak" link that is below the video interview.) I am so excited to share it with you; I hope you enjoy it!

And with that we are on to the ed letter.

You never know what to expect when you get an ed letter. When it's your first book it is especially important because even if you have had long conversations with your new editor, (I hadn't, but some authors do) you cannot tell exactly what their vision of the book is until you see their ed letter (BTW, ed letter is short for editorial letter, just in case you didn't know;)) And that means that it is the first time you truly see if their vision meshes with yours.

My first ed letter was eleven pages long. The first page was mostly my editor telling me how much she loved my book. That is important because, especially with that very first ed letter, your first thought upon completing it is, "Why in they world did she buy this book?!?!? She obviously HATES it!!!" And you know what? That's totally normal. No seriously. Every author I know has had that moment. That is why that first page is there. So you can go back and re-read how much your editor loves the book.

For me, my first ed letter was really important because WINGS is the first book of a series. That meant that we had to get all of the logistics of my mythos hammered out in this first book. Because book one sets the rules for the entire series--so those rules needed to be solid. Also, my backstory had . . .um . . . a few kinks.:D Basically I had to rewrite about half of my backstory so that it made sense on more than a superficial level. There were also big character arc things. Making David more well-rounded, Tamani a little more "human," Laurel more interesting, etc. We had a character we brought more to the forefront (Chelsea!) because everyone who read the book loved her, and Tara (my editor) suggested chopping the end of the book to give it more oomph!

An interesting thing that Tara did which I often chuckled at, was that when she presented a big problem, she was also present a few suggestions. For example, if the question was, (and yes, this is a very silly example) Why is Chelsea's hair brown? Tara might suggest, maybe she dyed it, maybe a witch cast a brown hair spell on her, maybe she wished for brown hair from a genie.

Now, the point of the suggestions was to get me thinking, so often Tara's idea were just things she threw out there. But I always laughed because I almost never used her suggestions. I would be like, "No, the reason Chelsea's hair is brown is because her parents both have brown hair," and then work my solution into the story. It didn't matter than I didn't use Tara's suggested solutions for the problems in my book, the point was that she pointed out the problems and I fixed them. But some of the suggestions she threw out for fixing them gave me a good laugh.

So it took me about four weeks to complete those edits, but it probably would have taken a bit longer if I hadn't been able to go to my mom's house for the first week of work where she watched my kids and kept a plate of something always in front of me. I got about a full forty hours worth of work done in that first week. Thanks Mom!

So, in comments, the question was asked, what do you do if the editor wants changes you don't agree with? Well, that happened in my first ed letter. Personally, I think the mistake that a lot of authors make is that they immediately call up their agent or editor and want to have it out right there. I think that is akin to the concept in writing that is generally referred to as "telling instead of showing." So as I mentioned above, Tara suggested cutting the last chapter (it was an epilogue) and letting the last actual chapter stand on it's own to end the book in a more dramatic way. (Not a cliffhanger, don't worry!) I kept coming back to that part in the ed letter and thinking that the last chapter alone was not enough. So when I got to that point in my edits, I made some changes to the epilogue, and then left it there. I let her know that I had done this in the email that I sent with my completed edits, but I didn't make a big deal out of it. I wanted to show her that I could fix it instead of cutting it, rather than just tell her.

So then my second ed letter came. This one was eight pages and came with a marked up manuscript. (Which was exciting to me. The first ed letter she told me flat out that there was no reason to send any line edits since she knew the text would be changing so much . . . and it did.:)) But, near the end of the letter, the epilogue came up again and she said that she had read through it several times and still thought the ending would be stronger without the epilogue.

So at that point, I had a choice. I could go along with it or I could fight it. Now THIS, in my opinion, is the time to actually make a fuss if you really think you want it your way. (And trust me! Editors sometimes are wrong!) But ultimately, I decided that she was right, and I went ahead and cut my epilogue. (There is a funny story behind that, but I'll share it at another time.:))

And you know what? She was right. No really. She was absolutely spot on. I can't tell you how many times on my pre-tour people told me that the ending was just perfect. And it's Tara's fault.:) So that was my half-hearted "fight" over something I didn't want.:D

However, particularly when you get to things like line edits, there will often be changes you don't like. For me, I took about 90-95% of Tara's suggestions, but that leave 5-10% that I didn't. So what did I do?

I just ignored them. I didn't point them out, I didn't make a fuss, I just kept it the way I had it, or changed it my own way, etc. Like with the whole epilogue thing, if it was really a big enough deal to Tara, she would point it out again in the next round of edits, and then we could talk about it if need be. And that seems to have worked out just fine for us.

So this year I got my ed letter (Nine pages, BTW) and the subtle differences were very interesting. Tara has realized that I, personally, am the kind of author who doesn't need a lot of praise. So my "I Love This Book!" section of my ed letter is less than half a page. Enough, but not overdone. Also, as mentioned about, Tara has seen that I don't really need suggestion for fixing problems, so she hasn't done that this time. There are just open ended questions for me. Why does XYZ happen? I like to think that it's because she trusts me to come up with a good solution on my own.:)

I really feel like Tara's and my editing relationship has grown. I have learned about the way that she edits, and she has earned about the way I revise, and I really feel that my newest ed letter reflects that. She had learned what I need, and what I don't need. And I have learned to trust her absolutely exquisite taste! As a testament to that--I kid you not--there is not a single thing in my ed letter this year that I don't agree with. Not. A. Single. Thing.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't have those first couple of days when looking at the ed letter made my head swim. In fact, because much of my revising is on the first quarter of the book, it felt especially intimidating to me because I find beginnings really, really difficult and I was going to have to re-do my beginning.

But I also have the confidence of knowing--absolutely knowing--that she is right. That this is going to make the book a lot better! And that's exciting to me.:) . . . even if it is a ton of work. *Eek!*

So . . . yeah . . . I gotta get back to it.



Prince Balthazar said...

Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like a great editor/writer relationship

Alexandra said...

I love reading about the writing/publishing process, so thanks for sharing! I also read the first chapter, and it was great. David was endearing (and your interview only made him sound more so), and Laurel's interactions with her mom were spot on for a socially-awkward-closer-to-her-family-than-most-teenagers-girl. I loved the description about not wearing scratchy clothes and three layers of shirts. I have often felt the same way. :) Can't wait to read the whole book!

Mitch Wallace said...

Thanks for posting this - as a writer who's about to start querying agents for my YA novel, it's cool to see how the whole editing process works. It's much less scary than I imagined it being!

Oh, and I read Chapter One of Wings, and I think you did a great job with it. Seems like a cool story so far!

Amanda said...

How terrible! I want more! April that is GREAT!
I watched your video too :) I am so happy for you!

Michelle Zink said...

Oh, my Gosh. 80% of the work I have to do in any book I write is in the beginning. I just have trouble with that part for some reason!

I'ts great that you guys have such an effective working relationship. I feel the same way about my editor and never cease to be amazed how much better every book is when she's done with it.

Happy editing!

Patti said...

Great post. I didn't even know what an ed. letter was until an author friend showed me one of hers. There's so many unknowns to a new author in the world of publishing. It's nice to read posts like this.

Chelsea said...

Well, that's kind of a personal question, but now that we're talking about it, I actually dyed my hair brown. Both my parents DO have brown hair and I have dark eyebrows, but somehow I ended up with this not-quite-blond/not-quite-brown, blah-colored hair. So I had to do something about it. Thanks for asking! :)

Maprilynne said...

Haha! Nice, Chelsea!!

jessie said...

Your dialogue is GREAT. The chapter flew by quickly-great pace. I'm excited to read the rest of it. And thanks for all the information. That answered a lot of questions.

Jaime Theler said...

Thanks for the look into the process. That's great that your editor would throw out suggestions, it shows she really wants to work with you. I'm excited for your book!

giddymomof6 said...

Okay, I LOVED this post! It's so awesome! And so very insightful! Thanks. Jenni