Monday, December 03, 2018

Thoughts on Rejection, Editing, and Scotch

On October 8, I turned the manuscript for GRAVEYARD BAY in to my editor. After a set of edits with her and then a second set of edits with my publisher (and a few suggestions from my agent), Poisoned Pen Press signed off on the manuscript this past Friday and it will now go to the copy editor for yet one more round.

For me, submitting my work and waiting to see if the story makes sense, the dialogue sounds genuine, and the clues are in the right places can be absolutely nerve wracking. Although, Annette, my editor has repeatedly told me to relax.  There’s nothing we can’t fix…if we have to.

The fact that the book is finished is a relief. However, while I exude a tough guy exterior, on the inside I’m a lukewarm puddle of insecurity. In my head, I recall the countless rejection slips and worse—no response—from agents and publishers when I was trying to get my foot in the door.

Back in the day before I found an agent and a publisher, I sent out countless query letters, synopses, and sample chapters, then waited with fingers crossed, hoping to hear back that someone liked what I was writing. The waiting was always the hardest part.

Except for the rejections. That was pretty bad too.

Oh, and when you didn’t hear anything at all.  That’s the worst because there’s no closure.

By the way, I sent out queries for my first book in the Geneva Chase series, RANDOM ROAD, in 2015. The book was published in 2017. I actually got an emailed rejection from a literary agency after the book was on the streets, nearly a year and a half after I’d queried. It shouldn’t come as a complete surprise though, my own agent gets a hundred queries a day!

So back then, as now, I tried to get my manuscript as close to perfect as I could before I let anyone see it.  I read some tips from Stephen King that were true when I first saw them and are just as valid now.

The best of those tips is to read your work aloud. You hear things one way when you read silently. When you read it out loud, you hear it the way a reader might hear it.  You can get a better feel for scene description (Too much? Too little?), for action (Too fast? Too slow?), and for dialogue (Too snappy? Too sappy?).

Get a hard copy printed out. Personally, I can’t edit from looking at a manuscript on the computer screen. Spell check makes it too easy to write your when you meant you’re. A hard copy makes it easier see that I’ve got way too many commas goin’ on in a sentence. Or when I’ve used the same word three times in the same paragraph. Plus, it’s a much better method to refer back to earlier chapters to see if I’ve inserted that clue where I thought I left it. In GRAVEYARD BAY, I discovered that I’d left out a major clue.  It was still in my head, but not in the story.

Set it aside—sleep on it. Because a mystery can be a bear to write, what with all the clues, plot twists, and ruthless characters, I like to keep moving on it. I hate to put it down because I’m afraid that I’ll lose the plot thread. But to get the best perspective and train a fresh eye on what you’ve written, put the manuscript in a drawer and walk away for a couple of days. When you come back to it, you’ll see new ways to improve what you’ve written.

These are just a few editing suggestions that I use.  One other piece of advice—trust your editor and trust your publisher.  They’re very good at what they do and their instincts are invaluable. Take their advice and suggestions to heart.

Okay, book is essentially done. Time for a celebratory Dewars and ice.

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