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.