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Archive for the ‘revisions’ Category

Good news tonight!

My editor has finished reading the newest draft of LITTLE GALE GUMBO (which includes a new ending!) and she’s delivered a hearty thumbs up! We’re nearly there, she assures me, which is wonderful to hear, because I’m due to deliver the final draft of the novel to NAL in a little over a month. Just a few changes left, she says, nothing huge. I’m relieved, and thrilled. The next step is to make edits using track changes, which means the file is now THE FILE. It’s a brave new world for this kid, but I’m ready. Put me in, coach!

All this sounds like a good excuse to celebrate. (I’m one of those people who needs little encouragement to reward myself–Laundry folded? Let’s open that bottle of red!)

So what’s a better reward than a smooth, tangy slab of  triple cream soft-ripened cheese that’s been nearly melting in room-temperature North Carolina heat?

Presenting, Le Delice de Bourgogne (just imagine an accent aigu over the second e)…

I might use some bread or I might just use a spoon, I’m not entirely sure…

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So, you finally heard back from the agent who has had your partial or your full. You open the email/letter with your heart in your throat. Your eyes dash over the response, catching every other word, hoping to glean the real message as quickly as possible. When you do, your brow furrows. It’s not a no, but…well, it’s not a yes, either.

So what is it?
It’s the mysterious revise and resubmit request.

When I read junebugger’s post today, I was reminded of this often-frustrating but usually-encouraging happening in the world of writing and publishing. So what to do when an agent requests a revision of your manuscript and then offers a second look?
Better yet, what to think?

Let’s look first at the second question: What to think? The first answer is think good thoughts. Agents are busier than ever these days, and inundated with more material than ever. They aren’t offering you ways to possibly improve your manuscript as well as the chance to reconsider it just to be nice.  They are doing it because they genuinely believe there is potential in your work.

So if they believe there’s potential, why not just offer representation outright? Well, an agent-writer relationship is just that: a relationship. Your agent has to know that she/he can work with you, not just your written words. Are you easy to work with? Will you respond professionally, in your dealings with the agent, with potential editors/publishers, with the reading public? Can you meet deadlines? And maybe most of all, how well do you take reviews of your manuscript and subsequent requests for changes?

So when you get that wonderful offer to revise and resubmit, don’t despair. Sure, we all want the offer for representation–that’s the goal–but keep in mind the road to representation (and the road to publication in general) is winding and bumpy and never, ever straight. It’s not a yes, but it’s not a no, either.

So if  the agent’s recommendations for your manuscript make sense to you and are ones you are comfortable making, then by all means, revise and resubmit. And even if the results still don’t garner the offer, always remember that most agents have remarkable memories for material and writers who piqued their interest. A courteous and professional exchange goes a long way down that winding, bumpy road.

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For anyone who has written a novel that shifts between the past and the present, it can be a tricky thing to keep track of time. I struggled for months to keep notes on the ages of my characters and the timeline of my story, a task which involved a level of organization that I had not previously employed. But when draft after draft, I added or subtracted years between events, I was grateful for it.

Lavender blooming in February?...Are you sure about that?

I don’t kid myself that no one will notice. Not even for a second. I don’t know about you, but I have a disturbing memory for details and I know I would notice if Ben was 52 in 1975 and then 60 in 1981. I do the math. And I suspect most readers do, too.

Years ago, when I was an art director at a magazine, I saw first-hand the difficult job of the copy editor, picking up tiny mistakes that had been missed in articles, saving everyone involved varying degrees of embarrassment. Having that appreciation for a copy editor’s work, I most certainly feel a tremendous responsibility to deliver the sharpest and most accurate manuscript I can. It shouldn’t be up to a copy editor to catch that I’ve made Matthew’s hair ash on page 67 and then golden blond on page 118.

So as the time draws nearer to delivering the final draft of LITTLE GALE GUMBO to my editor, I think about all the little things that I might miss in a final read-over, not just ages and dates. A character smiling too many times in a single scene, or worse, someone’s eyes changing color (and not from contact use) from one scene to the next.

To make sure I don’t, I’ve constructed a character journal and listed all the physical traits I’ve assigned to my characters. I have been in awe of how many times I’ve returned to double-check–not because I don’t know my characters inside and out, but because I know how easy it is to trip up on the little things in the heat of writing.

Any of you have any tricks for mastering the little things, or any novels you’ve written that have posed a similar challenge?

How about any books you’ve read that have included continuity details that have slipped through the editing cracks?

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