Kay: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

from wisegeek.com

I’ve been reading the Ladies’ posts—you know which ones I mean—the ones where everybody talks about their development editors, proofreaders, graphic artists, cover designers, blog tours, FaceBook friends, Twitter followers, and advertising campaigns. I am totally in awe for the time, energy, commitment, and planning all this work requires. I admire them beyond words for what they’re doing.

I’ve never done any of that.

Not that I’m proud of it. Far from it. Mostly I’m just super lazy. And I’m an ex-editor by trade, so when I think my manuscript is as good as I can make it, I get a cover, and I publish it. Done. And sometimes people buy my book and leave a review, so overall, I’m fine with my career, as low-key as it is.


I guess the enthusiasm and energy of my colleagues is rubbing off of me. Also, I’m not sure that this trilogy that I recently completed is any good. I have as many books languishing in a drawer as I have up on Amazon, so I’m not afraid to sit on something that I’m unsure about. But to have three books—five years of work—be, I suspect, subpar is a daunting thought. I don’t want to shelve three books.

So I looked around for an editor I might like, and I found one I’m willing to try, so one hurdle down! And then I thought, before I send this book (book 1 of the trilogy) off to her, I’ll just do a final read. Make sure it’s as good as it can be. I haven’t opened it in two years, I might see something.

Well, boy howdy! The first time I reread that book, I thought it totally sucked. It turns out, after quiet reflection and a second read, I think only the first half of it sucks. Of course, that doesn’t really matter, because if people don’t get past the first sucky half, they’ll never get to the second, relatively decent half.

I have to tell you, this is depressing news. Now, I think the best book of the trilogy is the third one, but same goes: if readers don’t get through the first book, they’ll never get to the third one. I know the second one is the worst—it gave me the most fits, and I nearly gave up on it several times. This is what they would call in the mystery world a Clue.

But—ex-editor by trade, remember, and I do love me a delete key. I have discovered that a lot of literary problems (and other kinds of problems, too) can be solved by whole-heartedly embracing the delete key.

So I went to work. I cut 4,000 words, all from the first half. That was a big improvement. Maybe in the next pass I can take out another 4,000—that would be even better. And I had a brilliant thought: I’ll have Phoebe steal the truck! That will solve all my problems!

Except it doesn’t, because the villains need the truck at the end of the book—the entire plot hinges on their having the truck at the end. So okay, Phoebe doesn’t steal the truck, and my problems live on.

One of the funny things about working on this book again is that it’s the one I wrote during our McDaniel class, and Jenny, if you’re listening, you were SO RIGHT. Every dang thing you said that would come to pass, did come to pass. And it’s not like I wasn’t listening, because I was, or that I ignored you, which I didn’t. It’s just that, for some reason, I didn’t see it. I guess I was too deep in the weeds, or something. But I sure do see all the problems now. It’s like you’re sitting on my shoulder, cackling away.

I’m going to do another pass on this one, see what else I can cut, and then send it to the editor and see what she says. If she tells me to shelve it, I will. Or if she tells me I have to find a way to get Phoebe to steal that truck, then I guess I’ll do that, too.

And then she’ll be sitting on one shoulder, and Jenny on the other, both of them cackling away.

And won’t that be, ah, fun.

7 thoughts on “Kay: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

  1. Kay, if “when I think my manuscript is as good as I can make it, I get a cover, and I publish it. Done.” is your definition of super lazy, then I want to be just that super lazy too 🙂

    If you decide Phoebe needs to steal the truck, well then maybe the villains can just steal it right back, so they have it when they need it. Just a thought. Also – if you ever want a beta-reader, count me in. I’ll to almost anything to avoid working on my own manuscript – LOL.

  2. LOL

    What you said about not listening to Jenny (or, rather, that you were listening to Jenny but you now find you didn’t carry through on some things). I think it goes back to “skills learned but not mastered.”

    We learned all (or most of) the things she taught us, but knowing the theory of something and having the skill to put it into practice are two different things. It’s taken me this long and three manuscripts to wrap my head around a lot of that stuff, which suggests that three is about right.

    • Yeah, I’m a slow learner. I’ve got about 15 manuscripts done, and I hit the same problems every time. With no end in sight. 😀

  3. I agree so much about the various levels of information . . . there are some things I just wasn’t ready to take in during class. And some things I’m actively processing to this day, and others that I recognize intellectually but can’t do anything about. And I’m sure there’s some stuff from class that just flew straight over my head and I don’t have any conscious memory of it — no way to apply it because I’m missing the more-basic levels of information.

    (-: The only way to apply those higher levels of information is to work through the lower ones, I guess! I’ll keep plugging away.

  4. I’m about to go through this process with a manuscript I’ve been sitting on for a long time – I figure that I owe this manuscript a real chance to succeed, rather than just letting it collect dust in my drawer because I’m overwhelmed by how much work it needs.

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