The Last Line

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As I finished reading the last page of my edited manuscript, I was ecstatic to find my story was completely intact, (including my beloved last line). With this being my first foray into YA Fantasy, I’m taking this as a huge victory. This was not an easy story to devise or lay out given the large amount of detail in shaping an elaborate lie.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished. This novel started out as a fun little project and turned into something I can only describe as an outright passion. Everything about the story and characters reached deep inside of me and challenged my imagination to ask “what if?” From start to finish, this novel always felt like magic to me.

Thankfully, my editor saw the magic as well! Every scene I was willing to fight for remained in place with little or no adjustment. This was particularly true in the last two chapters, where I had the most fear of a major chop job. Like I’ve said before, this is the part of the novel where I told the biggest and most complicated lies. One major hole or misplaced scene could’ve ruined the whole story!

However, that’s not to say everything remained exactly the same word for word. After all, editors are supposed to go in there and fix the problems. My editor did some artful clean up on the text and eliminated unnecessary descriptions. I fully admit that I have a penance for adjectives and sometimes overly descriptive sections. My sentimentality for adjectives definitely needed to be tempered with my editor’s red pen!

Aside from deletion, she sometimes moved a sentence or a paragraph to a different location. The shift was usually subtle, but I was amazed at how much it changed the flow of a section. It just goes to show how important placement can be, even if just for a sentence. It’s something I couldn’t see for myself and has made me further appreciate the sharp eye of an editor.

Throughout this entire process, I had two key questions floating around in my mind:

1) Where are those 7,000 words I noticed were missing from my word count?

2) What is the fate of the epilogue?

The answer to the first question was very clear when I finished with the last page. No major scenes or sections were cut, which means this is a cumulative total of little deletions from the entire manuscript. After reviewing the first five chapters of the fully commented version of the manuscript, this conclusion is even more clear to me. A deleted word or phrase here and there adds up really fast! While 7,000 is a huge number, I find myself more than willing to let all those words go as my editor has left me with a clean and simplified manuscript that retains all the elements of my writing style.

As for the epilogue, it remains in place. Yet, I find myself in a fierce debate on whether it should exist at all. I love how it creates a cliff hanger that leads to the sequel, but there are a few holes in it (which my editor did point out). While those holes are easily fixable, I remain firmly entrenched in the Epilogue Dilemma: To epilogue or not to epilogue?

As I continue working on notes for the sequel, I’m realizing the current epilogue has cornered me in terms of plot development. There are elements in the epilogue that restrict where I can go with the continuing story and I’m not sure I like the direction it’s taking. My muse needs to start talking and I need to start mapping out some possible solutions.

All in all, I’m thrilled with the edited draft of my manuscript. While I admire writers that can self-edit, I’ve learned I am not one of those writers. I need that fresh set of eyes and the scalpel of a red pen to make my work the best it can be.

In the coming weeks, I hope to post an interview with my editor, Kristen Fairgrieve of Got My Red Pen Out. If you’re in the market for a freelance editor, I highly recommend her services! Stay tuned for insights on her process and editing style.

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c.b.w. 2014

Almost At The End

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It’s funny how the end can be just as nerve wracking as the beginning. I’m down to the last 35 pages of my edited manuscript and I’m starting to feel those knots in my stomach, again. I can’t believe I’m actually nervous about reading the end.

All I can think of is the three months it took me to write those last chapters. I’m talking hair-ripping out, gut wrenching, way too much coffee drinking evenings of trying to construct the perfect ending to my novel. This is the part of the story where I told the biggest “lies.” Already rewritten mythology delves even deeper into new canon and two major plot twists are supposed smack the reader right between the eyes. So many moving parts had to come together to make it all work. All I can wonder is whether I actually pulled it off with any sort of finesse.

Then, there’s the inevitable self-doubt questions. What if it isn’t good enough? What if there are too many holes in the story? What if it’s unfixable? Writers seemingly torture themselves with these questions endlessly, no matter how much they’ve accomplished!

Aside from typical writer neuroses, being this close to the end has me returning to the biggest question of all – Where are those missing 7,000 words and 23 pages? As I get so close to the end, I’m starting wonder if that’s where some major edits took place.  Those 7,000 words are either the result of a cumulative total of small changes throughout the story or they have disappeared because the ending got a major overhaul.

I keep hoping for the cumulative total option, but I’m also highly aware that the ending might have had a particularly bloody meeting with a red pen. Either way, procrastination and bowing down to nerves won’t bring me any closer to finding out the answer to my burning question.

Even though the knots are yanking at my stomach, my brain is busy reminding me that change has done my novel a world of good. If there are missing scenes at the end or a major chop job, I have to stay open to the idea that it might all be for the best.

As I gear up to read those last few chapters, the nervousness is balanced out quite nicely by excitement. Finishing this phase of the process brings me one step closer to my dream of seeing this story in print.

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p.s. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know I cheated and skipped ahead to the last page (before the epilogue) to see if my last line was still there. I figured I better own it here as well! And for the record, I’m beyond giddy that my last line remains in place. :-)

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c.b.w. 2014

Clearing The First Hurdle

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When I sent my manuscript to my editor, I made a mental list of things I’d be willing to fight for if they disappeared or were changed beyond recognition. The list is actually very short, seeing as I walked into the process determined to stay open-minded to change.

In reading chapters five through ten, I knew one of my list items was on the horizon. And it wasn’t just any list item, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire story. As soon as I saw the heading for Chapter 10, I took a deep breath and hoped my original vision was largely intact.

Chapter 10 is a turning point in the story as this is where Ian’s secret is forced out of him. He can’t hide anymore and Amanda learns the truth behind his presence in her life. This moment between them is both emotional and magical.

What makes this particular part of the story so important to me is somewhat sentimental. It’s the first conversation I ever “heard” between my main characters, Amanda and Ian. There voices chimed into my imagination with such shocking clarity, I felt more like a transcriptionist than a writer.

The question, however, was whether my editor would see it the way I do. Her changes through chapters five through nine were relatively subtle (and extremely well done) and that gave me a little boost of confidence as I jumped into Chapter 10. That being said, I still made sure I wore my thick skin before reading even a single line. Thick skin is an important wardrobe accessory for any writer reading through edits!

After the first big breath at the start of the chapter, I don’t think I exhaled until the page before Chapter 11. Then, it took every bit of control I had not to jump up out of my chair and do a happy dance. The dialogue was relatively untouched and my original vision remained totally intact. The changes she made were quiet, yet powerful in that she made what I wrote flow with a little more elegance.

Now, I can relax a bit as one huge item on my list made it through my editor’s radar. Another big list item is coming in Chapter 12 and I’m still wondering what happened to my missing 23 pages and 7,000 words! But, for now, I’ll just bask in the fact that one hurdle has been cleared.

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c.b.w. 2014

Digging Into Change

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It’s been a week since my editor returned my manuscript. In that time I’ve downloaded the fully edited version to my Kindle Fire and read the first five chapters. So far the process has been pretty painless, but I’m sure that’s because I let it sit unopened for two days while I prepped myself to let go of things and approach change with an open mind.

Before opening the file, I remember thinking, I hope she didn’t change the first line.  Silly, silly me. When the first page loaded, the first line was not only different, but gone!  I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak that was sure to rip through my chest, but it never happened. For a moment, I sat there in total shock. Why? I loved the new first line. A lot.

This was a huge surprise to me because I always loved the original first line, which meant I never touched it through four drafts of revisions. That sentimental attachment was a problem, but I never saw it until someone else pointed it out! I had to say goodbye to my line, but I know my novel is better without it.

Over the next few chapters, the changes are more subtle, but still just as powerful. Small changes in word choice and grammar are helping to smooth out the way my words flow. Deletions here and there are creating a tighter sentences and paragraphs.  In some cases, I’m reading and I know things are missing, but it I don’t seem to miss them. That tells me they didn’t need to be there in the first place.

While the first chunk of this process has been easy to tackle, I know there are some big changes to come. The modified draft is 23 pages and about 7,000 words shorter than my original manuscript, which means something drastic has happened somewhere!

It’s easy to panic with those kind of numbers floating around, but all I have to remember is how much I love my new first line. It’s something I never thought I would accept, but here I am smiling. Will this happen with every major change? Probably not. There are things I’m willing to fight for if they are missing, but I’m also open to the possibility of trying a different path.

The next five chapters are on the agenda for the coming week. Hopefully, the read will be just as enlightening as the first five.

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c.b.w. 2014

Back From The Editor … Now What?

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While I was on vacation, my editor finished up with my manuscript. Being the superstar she is, she sent me two versions of the work she completed. The first version includes comments about the changes she made and grammar corrections (I have a feeling I’m going to get a major crash course in grammar rules after reading through all of them!). The second version hides all the comments and presents the manuscript as it would appear with her recommended changes.

The chaos of returning home from vacation has left me with just enough time to read the only the first page of both versions, but I’m already thrilled with the recommended changes. It’s funny how a fresh pair of eyes and a little rearranging can make such a huge difference!

Now comes the tricky decision of deciding which version to read first. On the plane ride home, I had plenty of time to think about whether I wanted to comb through the comments to get a really good understanding of her rationale before diving into the modified version or if I wanted to simply read the modified version of my novel without any explanations.

Ultimately, I decided to read the “no explanation” version first. My reasoning behind this is simple: I want to read my book as I would any other YA novel and judge it as such. Seeing as my version of the manuscript has been changed, it will be entirely new to me as a reader.

In order to further this “reader” mindset, I’m going to send the modified version to my Kindle Fire. Documents on a Kindle Fire look just like a real ebook, so that should get me in the mood to read it as if were a published novel. I used the same technique when revising the fourth draft of my novel and it worked incredibly well. In addition to creating the illusion of an ebook, the Kindle Fire also allows me to highlight and make notes within a document. That should come in handy when I read through the “comment version.”

Once I’ve read through the modified version, I’ll go back and read through all of my editor’s comments. I’ll likely have a list of notes and questions by the time I get to this version, which I can then reconcile with her rationale. From there, I can decide whether to keep the changes she made or stick with the original version.

The decision to hire an editor wasn’t an easy one and I know the next couple of weeks are going to be a huge test for me as a writer. On one side of things, I have to protect my initial vision, but on the other I need to have thick skin and open mind. My editor only wants the best for my book and it’s important that I remember this as I read through her comments and consider her alterations.

As I get ready to jump into this next phase of novel writing, I keep reminding myself that everything I do from this point on should be focused on making my novel the best it can possibly be. That might mean learning to let go of things I thought were important or considering a new way to tell a story that matters so much to me. The key element in this entire process is staying open to change.

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c.b.w. 2014