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New Mantra, Shut up, Dig in, and Learn

Getting edits for your first novel is a little like waiting from the doctor for medical test results. You hope they will come back and say, “Everything is perfect; you have nothing to worry about.” But you also have this little voice whispering, “If something is wrong, I want to know. We can deal with it. Fix it.” The good thing about edits, of course, is that they are not life threatening. Even though it might just feel that way.

When my editor wanted to chat with me on the phone before sending edits, my first thought was he wanted to soften the blow on harsh edits. Smart guy. After he described my book as a “thinking woman’s cozy” and said “those characters just leap off the page” he could have asked me to do double the work.  But as one of my writer friends said “I can see by reading just one of his sentences, the hours and hours of work ahead of you.”

They are not HUGE changes, but they are the kind of changes that will affect a lot of the book. After I make these suggested changes, I will go through the book and look at all the other “connecting” factors to make sure they are actually connecting. Make sense?

But here’s the clincher. I don’t mind the work. I am learning as I go.  This is my first novel. I need to shut up, dig in, and learn from my editor. I know from my other publishing experiences, mostly in cookbooks, that an outside eye on your manuscript can do wonders. It is next to impossible to see your own work at some point. I’m absolutely certain these edits will make my book even stronger.

Also, my editor made it quite clear that if I felt strongly about any of his changes I should let him know and we would discuss.  So as I dig in, his attitude comforts me. If there’s anything I’m uncomfortable about changing, he is open to discussion. Sometimes I need to stop and pinch myself.

Here’s what I’m working on:

1.     Beefing up the mystery. (Because, well, I’ve written a MYSTERY.) This is really just a matter of a few tweaks here and there, ratcheting up the tension.

2.     Adding more “crop” scenes in because after all, it is a scrapbooking mystery. I had way too much action happening away from the actual scrapbooking going down.  (For those of you who don’t know “crop” is a term for getting together and scrapbooking.)

3.     Rewriting the ending. Endings are tricky business. I welcome any advice, especially from a young, smart, genre-savvy editor.

Maybe some fiction authors get it all right before they turn in the manuscript. I tried my best, but I was definitely expecting edits—and really looking forward to them. So now that I have them, my mantra has become “Shut up, dig in, and learn.”

Updates to follow throughout the process. I think. Do any other fiction writers out there have similar mantras or thoughts?

9 thoughts on “New Mantra, Shut up, Dig in, and Learn

  1. Mollie Cox Bryan says:

    I hear ya! And as I approached the final drafts of my second book in this series, I hope to keep my editors comments on the first book IN HAND and mind. 😉

  2. Girl Fren' says:

    Lucky you, fren Molly. That editor sounds like s/he is on your side and cares about your project enough to work hard and be frank.

    I teach peer-editing to university students and talk about tears!! Often, like surgery without anesthesia, ya’d think.

    Love your attitude and your new mantra.

    • Mollie Cox Bryan says:

      Thanks, Kate. Yep, I do believe he is on my side. Always good to know. Good luck with those students…;-)

  3. Cathy says:

    You have a gem of an editor indeed! I have been a professional editor for most of my working life, but I am not up to editing fiction. That takes a special knack and a special understanding, not only of the genre, but also of the psychology of the creative mind that produces the work.

    You lucked out big time to land with someone who possesses those qualities!

    • Mollie Cox Bryan says:

      Yes, Cathy, so far, so good with the editor. These days you hear so much about the lack of editing in books. I’ve been blessed with ever editor I’ve had, going all the way back to my first cookbook. Thanks for posting.

  4. Sharon Miro says:

    When I wrote, I never minded working with a good editor. They can elevate your writing just by the simple fact that they are NOT vested in the heart as you are. Good luck–look forward to more updates.

  5. India Drummond says:

    I can so relate to this feeling. I just this week got back my edits from my editor for my second novel, and I went throug the same thing. Fortunately the changes she recommended weren’t extensive, but there was a part of me that had hoped she’d say evrything was perfect! I knew this couldn’t possibly happen, but I think every writer has that hope. =)

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