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The Editing Process

I have been dreading this part of the publishing process from the moment I put the last period (full stop for you UK folks [edited] ) to the epilogue of the raw manuscript. The thought of a weed-whacker being swept through it just chills the blood. Precious words falling to the wayside, cut down, abandoned, ultimately forgotten as they are swept away. All those months of sweat and headache… well, it’s not over.

The rewrite was painful enough. I knew where the major flaw was in the writing. Those blasted first three chapters that just would not blend into the rest of the book caused me no small amount of cussing and head scratching. I pushed, pulled, tweaked, snipped, juggled, wept, cursed, shoved, tore and did just about everything I could think of to bring the sullen brats into line with the rest of the family. Nothing, nada, no success. They spitefully laughed and continued their ruinous plans to not conform.

There reaches a point where you are lost. No direction seems the right one. It is all a blur and you can’t change the view enough to reach clarity. You bog down and set it aside in the vain hope that some distance will change your perception if you just wait a couple months before revisiting the pages. Nope, still nothing. Even my readers confirmed that those three chapters were step-children, separate from the rest.

In despair, I finally faced the truth. I needed my editor to give me a direction. Pull out the weed-whacker, trim the words, show me what is beneath the unruly mob. Rake the yard and see how the lawn looks now. The process is difficult. Letting go and just allowing the process to show me the way is new territory. I don’t always deal well with changes. This was a big one.

Then came the edited Prologue. My heart clenched as the strike-outs blasted into my stinging orbs. The column of notes with their wickedly pointing lines scrolled down like an invading army.  My fear was magnified as I realized my sacred, precious word count was about to start falling like autumn leaves. Even whole sentences were speared and laid low by those strike-outs. I wanted to cry.

Only for a moment though. That cooler, rational part of my psyche whispered in my ear, “You wanted this. It is necessary. She will show you the way out of your mess and make it shine even more. Trust, accept and learn.” I listened for a change rather than ignoring such insidious words. It made sense. I began simply deleting the struck-out words, after a brief review of each. All save one word early and one sentence I couldn’t understand once the strike-outs were to be done. Those I saved for questions for the editor. She would tell me what the problem was.

The notes, those were harder. Directions, questions, suggestions: all quite good, though half way through I realized I was getting lost. I picked up the phone and a cigarette. We talked our way through the notes, me reading sentences and her explaining, clarifying what the notes meant. I got it then. This process was NOT destructive. It was liberating! We spent an hour and a half going through over 12oo words that became 1000 and change. We solved the mystery of the struck through sentence and I justified the one word I challenged. (Changing a prior word saved my favored one, go figure!)

It was a good learning process. I am happy with the result of the process, this beginning. Still have a long way to go though. The solution for my wayward three chapters is harsh. They must die. I will cannibalize the remains for the meat of substance and place them elsewhere in the book. That solves my issue. They don’t belong, but the information they imparted had to be salvaged. The way is shown.

I am actually looking forward to receiving those first three chapters back. The strike-throughs will be my guide. They are actually an act of love. I understand now the glowing acknowledgements and love I see in book after book after book on my shelves. The editors are heroes in their thankless duty. They see to the meat and bone and give books their final nudges into true life. They are apart and part of a process that no author, if they are honest, can do alone.

Thank you Maggie, with all my heart and on behalf of a hopeful manuscript that might yet live!


Hark! Is That a Deadline?

Well, now the pressure is truly beginning. That juggling act where I get 2 projects ready for back-to-back publication is starting to make me nervous. I’ve made progress on both, but it still feels like dog paddling in the shallows when I need to be breast-stroking across the English Channel. Nothing is quite where I want it or I don’t know where it is at all.

Graham’s Tale might make it to the finish line, on time and perhaps even semi-readable. The 2 covers, for print and e-pub, are completed. That is a huge relief. I was starting to sweat on that. Both artist came through with wonderful pieces and on the same day even. Nice!

The first 4 chapters for Graham’s Tale may finally have resolution. Hack, slash, maul and maim it down to 1 chapter and assorted body parts. Those parts that are transplantable shall receive new homes in later chapters as appropriate. The rest gets tossed on the mismatched limbs and burn-only pile of debris. All  that anxiety on making those first chapters work: pointless. Heh, talk about stressing myself out needlessly!

The Anthology is looking like I will make that deadline also. It is due the month following Graham’s Tale. Editing is an odd business. The order of things becomes important. The shifting of tones and emotions has to be balanced with other factors. So many details to keep track of and make sure they are completed. Just think, I have to pull four different bunnies out of the same hat! The first one will actually be the easiest. It’s the other three that have me worried.

I guess this is good practice for learning how to be a writer and editor.  I am simply amazed at how much effort goes into bringing a book into existence. Especially when you think you are just organizing other people’s writing. It’s worth it… I think, will get back to you on that one.

The Great Juggling Act of 2010

Being in the early stages of a writing career is stressful. Well, duh!

There is the cliched adage about working at a paying job while writing and working on getting published. True, not denying that. Bills must be paid, food bought, kitty litter provided, house payment made… they don’t just magically take care of themselves as you click away on the keyboard. It does distract though. Hard to keep creative juices flowing when exhausted and even harder when your work drains some of that creativity off for its own purposes.

Still, I won’t give in. I will prevail. So, I am editing an anthology. Bring it on. I’ll create lists to keep me on track. Contracts, actual editing, foreword, afterword, back cover text, cover art, hounding contributors, putting together the manuscript;  just part of the list so far. Then do it three more times to complete the series. Then hunt up international contributors for the following year’s editions. Piece of cake!

Let’s not forget the novel. Another rewrite might be necessary. Plus getting the cover art completed. Then there is the galley. The rewrite still scares me. The damn beginning of the book has me near tears. I just can’t get it to meld seamlessly with the rest. It is driving me insane. Again, I won’t give up. May is around the corner and I don’t want to push back the publication date again. No. I refuse. It must be done on schedule, at least from my end.

The thing is, my money job is changing on me. I enjoyed my position as an HIV test counselor. I am good at it. People can’t help but tell me about themselves and what they do. Then I am able to help them do things differently. No, now my job is changing due to funding issues. Now my dream job that I could see myself doing for 20 more years has evolved into my worst nightmare. Now I will be doing interview type things with those already positive to get them to give up the names of sexual partners so we can go to them and get them to test. Argh!

Now add my health issues. Things are getting tricky. I need to learn to juggle greased objects and not drop any of them. Between the writing, job and health, my stress levels are reaching critical levels. This makes my health do interesting things that involve a lot of flinching and penguin walking because my legs are barely working properly. Oh well. Let us not forget the four to six hours sleep pattern. So, general fatigue to match.

I will win. I will survive. I will succeed. I will finish my goals. I will keep my marriage intact. I will keep my job. I will make it all work out.