Publishing a Novel, pt. 2
Last time we discussed the very beginning stages of how I went about writing a query letter and a little about the first emails between Boyle & Dalton and myself. I’d like to continue the story of how I went about publishing my first novel – in hopes that it will help a few of you – by discussing the editing process that began once the contracts were all signed with my publisher.
A quick side note to anyone aspiring to publish, when Boyle & Dalton and I first discussed how we would go about working together I did a fair amount research on them. This was in part due to my family’s concerns about me sending money to unfamiliar people via the mail, as well as to ease my own mind. I wanted not only to be sure this was a real company, but that they would produce the book with quality. There was no way I could get my hands on any of the in-progress works but I was able to find their finished projects online, and one was in a Vermont bookstore. I was fortunate enough to flip through the pages of it to look at the construction of the novel. In the end there was no cause for concern, but this sort of caution should most certainly be practiced. These days it’s incredibly easy to put up a fake website and accept money.
In any case, let’s move on to the fun stuff.
Everyone’s Trying to Help
The first step was to let the editor look at my manuscript. He read through it over the course of – let’s call it a month – and mailed the 243 page manuscript back to me. It was covered in line edits, comments about why a character should or shouldn’t do something, and a few grammatical issues marked by a blue pen. Atop the stack of paper was a short document discussing the manuscript as a whole, telling me in a few sentences about things I did well and discussing on the other 3.5 pages the ways I should change the text.
Now, I’ve always been rather comfortable when receiving criticism, but it was still a lot to take in at once. I remember reading through the manuscript the first time, finding all of the same flaws my editor did, the blue marks he left when a word was repeated, when a character did something that didn’t make sense. Sometimes he crossed out whole paragraphs because they didn’t belong in the book. I’d never met the man before and suddenly he was telling me to gut what I’d written, something that I was proud of, and try again.
This was for the best, of course, but I never felt good about it.
With time I ended up enjoying the edits, and followed my editor’s word to the letter in most cases, but the first few days I didn’t touch the manuscript for fear of ruining it even more than it apparently already was. To the others looking to publish, if you come away with only one thing from this post I hope it is that your editor will be honest. I was fortunate enough to be able to disagree with him, which I imagine is less easily done with larger publishers, but even then I likely only went against his suggestions 1% of the time. If you ever get your work edited, listen to them closely. Don’t take it personally, because it simply is not – everyone is trying to help you. Everyone on the team wants your writing to be successful. My revisions were much easier once I focused on that.
To any who have published before, I’m sure you understand.
Above: The first completed manuscript, back from the publisher.
Editing is Writing
I was to have two developmental edits for A Package of Moods. The first was sent out during the first week of August, almost a year ago (at the time of writing this post). That took some time to get back to me, then more to run through and make the edits. During this time I came to the realization, even more so than I expected, that editing was the core of writing. The first few drafts were important but the majority of my energy was being spent on these changes, fixing issues and looking for more. Everything before was challenging and extremely rewarding, but for the first time my project felt more like work – in a good way. My novel was becoming a novel, not just a few thousand words on my computer, and I could see it improving every time I sat down to work on it.
The second manuscript went out just a few months after the first, on the eleventh of October. I received it about a month later and was greeted with a new set of criticisms. New issues came up, some caused by my edits from last time, some had been around since long before and were just then noticed. I remember once scene in particular was massively flawed – I have no idea how I missed it for so long. My editor pointed out that one scene in A Package of Moods involved a situation the police would surely be present for, but none were there, not even a police line. It broke the realism, immersion, and just about everything else.
Needless to say, I jumped right on that. Ended up having to re-write half of the chapter and spent a fair amount of time editing the newly written segment.
A Package of Moods Full Manuscript 3 was sent out on December 27th and with that, the editing process was over, for the most part. Once their holiday break was over, my publisher handed it off to their copy editor. She looked for grammatical errors, passages that didn’t quite make sense, and any other formatting issues. There were a few problems, but all were solved in a few hours. none particularly troublesome, fortunately.
From then on, all that remained was designing the cover art, interior design, and figuring out the price. It took a bit of time to arrange, and I’ll talk about it more in the next part, but with the editing done the hardest part was over.
A few months later I was a published author.
I still don’t feel like one, though. I mean, the other night I was running around town playing Pokémon GO with some friends and avoiding a drunk who claimed to be the antichrist. Life hasn’t changed much for me, though I’m pretty happy about that.
Photo credit: Olu Eletu