BEHIND THE SCENES—WHEN A WRITER SAYS "REVISION HELL" THIS IS WHAT SHE MEANS
Recommended Books for Other Writers
Best Books I’ve Read (for Entertainment) This Month
NOTE: If there is a topic or another column you’d like to see me address in a future newsletter, please email me at email@example.com with your suggestions. No, I will not discuss my inspiration for love scenes.
I can’t tell you what it means to a fledgling author when bestselling authors come forward with endorsements. Let’s just say it means A LOT! So let me brag a minute, okay?—as these ladies’ opinions kept my spirits high through a rough month with a fast-approaching deadline and an unwieldy manuscript. Here’s what they’ve said about SING ME HOME:
“Jerri Corgiat’s debut novel is a treasure. SING ME HOME is a tender, romantic story of a big-time musician and a small-town girl discovering the things that matter most--the precious gifts of love, family, and community.”
--Bestselling novelist Susan Wiggs, author of PASSING THROUGH PARADISE and HOME BEFORE DARK
“A delightful book, a masterful blend of Nashville glitz and down-home simplicity that will touch any romance reader’s heart. SING ME HOME strikes realistic chords, reaffirming for all of us the most important things in life aren’t money and fame, but love, devotion and family.”
--Bestselling novelist Catherine Anderson, author of ONLY BY YOUR TOUCH and BLUE SKIES
BEHIND THE SCENES:
WHEN A WRITER SAYS "REVISION HELL" THIS IS WHAT SHE MEANS
Before I experienced the revision process, I had this sweet little fantasy about how my editor and I would work hand-in-hand to guide my writing into the best it could possibly be. We would have long, thoughtful discussions following her long, thoughtful read through. Should I get stuck as I worked through these insights, I would pick up the telephone and we would ruminate over various directions the book could take.
Oh, don't you love your rose-colored glasses?
Not that I couldn't have picked up the telephone. But I’d already learned my editor is expected to spend a ton of hours In A Meeting. Except for a few minutes each day where she has time to pound out emails. Her (and her colleagues) weekends must be lovely. That's when they actually have time to read the piles of paper--requested manuscripts, unrequested manuscripts, their author's first submissions, and the ones they made after revisions--that land in their office each week.
Don’t get me wrong. My editor is good. My editor is great. My editor also has a gazillion other things more important than me entered on her Palm Pilot. I fall somewhere between “Call publisher. Grisham is ready to sign!!” and “Pick up bread on the way home.”
So once the revision letter arrives, a writer goes it pretty much alone. And this is pretty much how it should be. No writer I know wants to write a book by committee, and fixing it is as personal as writing that first initial draft.
At first I angsted (is that a word?) over everything. From how to add more and end up with less, to those four words I learned to dread: “Seems confusing to me.” And then there was this notation: “This is yucky.” (Yucky is editor-speak for… “yucky.”)
My manuscript was 426 pages. I was asked to add more—more description, longer transitions, three additional scenes—and to “Please hit about 350 manuscript pages.” Croak. (A publisher’s preferred page count has to do with “price points.” When I understand all that, I’ll let you know... Uh, don’t hold your breath waiting.)
Through two months of tearing my manuscript apart and retooling, until the day I got the “I love it!” note from my editor (pounded out while In A Meeting I'd guess), here’s what I learned:
1. Editors—good editors—have a keen eye for spotting problems. If she’s put it in the revision letter, you can bet it is A Problem. Without a doubt.
2. You may feel an editor’s suggestion for solving A Problem is…well…yucky. But that's okay. You're the writer and it's up to you. You know your work better than anyone else—not to mention you care about it more than anyone else—so you need to follow your own gut instincts.
3. There are never enough days between the time you receive the revision letter and the time you must return the revised manuscript to get it exactly the way you want it.
4. You will feel like you’ve had a burrito heavy on the jalapenos for lunch (and dinner) every single day that lapses between the return of your revised manuscript and the “I love it!” email.
5. During the revision process, you may start to feel like killing off all your characters. I realized this when I finished revising a scene featuring an argument between my hero (Jon) and heroine (Lil). Lil rarely lets a swear word slip past her lips. But, by golly, there she was...yelling the F-word at Jon while reaching for a carving knife. It might have made a good story… except I was pretty certain my editor was expecting a romance.
Still, murdering the hero at that point would have been a very easy—and self-satisfying—way to come in at 350 pages.
Revision hell, yes. But I ended up with a book I love, a book my editor loves, and one we hope you will, too. Now, it’s time for me to crawl back into my padded cell…
RECOMMENDED BOOKS FOR OTHER WRITERS:
Children’s books! I’ve learned (on a tip from another writer) that children’s books are a great research source. Sometimes all we need is a little snippet of information to add some depth and believability to a topic we know nothing about. (And there are plenty of those topics where I’m concerned.) A well-stocked library has a ton of nonfiction children’s books in terms simple enough to fill the bill (and for me to understand), along with illustrations and pictures that get the creative juices flowing.
BEST BOOK I’VE READ (for entertainment) THIS MONTH:
NOT MUCH JUST CHILLIN’ by Linda Perlstein
Maybe you’ve heard of this book since it got playtime on NPR. A nonfiction work about middle schoolers, this book by education reporter Linda Perlstein is a gem for looking at young adolescence from inside the kids’ heads. Even if you aren’t a parent, it’s as engrossing as any novel.
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves