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.

– – –

c.b.w. 2014

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22 thoughts on “Digging Into Change

    • That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. 🙂 I’m going through the hidden comment version first, so I can simply take it in as I would any other novel. It’s definitely making it easier to let go of things I only thought were important. 🙂

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  1. I’m so glad you are having such a positive experience. I’m sure it will be inspiring to others who face the editor. I wonder if those 7,000 could have added up from tightening throughout. I’m really curious to hear what happens with that.

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    • Those missing words and pages have me wondering, too. However, after reading through the first five chapters, I’m feeling more curiosity than fear about what’s missing and why. I take that as a good sign. 🙂

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  2. Does your editor not discuss the problematic phrases and passages with you, and encourage you to create the mutually acceptable changes yourself? That’s the way my editor works, and in turn that’s the way I work as an editor.

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    • My editor sent me two versions of the edited draft. One includes comments and the other does not. I’m reading the comment free version first so I can read it as I would any other novel. From there, I can compare my thoughts to hers after I’ve had a chance to read the big picture. 🙂

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      • So in fact no, you don’t get to make the changes yourself. Hmmm.

        The editor I use doesn’t take that much ownership of the text. He is very thorough in his analysis and sets out his objections to words, phrases, whole passages, even plot movement very clearly and forcefully. Then the onus is placed on me to come up with something that is acceptable to both him and me; nine times out of ten I see what he is getting at, and make the necessary change, exercising my own creativity, but occasionally I explain further why I made a particular choice and we agree to let something stand ‘as is’. This process is rigorous, satisfies not only both of us but the publisher as well, and means I am always sure in the knowledge that I ‘own’ the final text.

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      • How interesting. I actually like handing off that kind of control, mainly because I get too caught up in what I think matters. To see how someone else would do it allows me to make the decision to keep the changes or revert to the original.

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  3. I’m glad you love the new first line. It’s so easy to become attached to certain lines and words, but I’m glad the process doesn’t hurt too much so far. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear about the rest and what happened to those 23 pages!

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    • I figure it’s a journey, so I might as well enjoy the trip. 🙂 I went into this knowing changes were needed, which is probably why I’m taking them all in stride so far. Hopefully, I’ll handle the missing 23 pages with the same positivity!

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  4. Oh yes, the emotional attachment to a line, I’ve had that too! I would imagine it’s a common problem that most writers have to face at some time, and then learn to recognise it when it crops up again. The way a book begins is so crucial to drawing in a reader or not, at least it is for me when I’m deciding if I’m even interested in reading a book. I’m really fussy these days, I’ve lost count of the amount of books I’ve put back on the shelf because I didn’t like the way it began – it’s normally a sign the rest won’t be right either.

    There is a WordPress blog I’ve been reading for some time now by the Darley Anderson Agency, just wondering if you would find it interesting? They are a top literary agency in London and they have a brilliant blog with a friendly approach and some excellent advice for writers. Even if you are hoping to self publish, what they have to say is still worth a read. http://darleyandersonblog.com/ They also have interviews with their authors too, so you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find the articles on the writing advice.

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    • I’m a pretty picky reader, too. If the first page doesn’t pull me in, that’s it. I’m done! As writers, we are so close to the work, we can’t always see whether the first page is enough to pull a stranger into the world we’ve created. It’s hard for me to see my book without seeing the entire story! Fresh eyes have definitely help change my perspective.

      Ooo, I’ll have to check out that blog! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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