Monday, October 30, 2006

Have you ever noticed that ‘edit’ is a four letter word?? That may explain why it’s so hard.

I hired a freelance editor recently. She was a kind lady, very knowledgeable and skilled. But. . .

“We’re going to have to cut chapter one,” she said.

“What! The entire chapter?”

“I’m afraid so. And your heroine’s goal is not clearly defined. I want to know what motivates her early on, the first paragraph if possible, and no later than the first or second page.”

Good grief! Still, I trusted her judgment, so after much angst, I cut chapter one and got to work revising chapter two. Six months later, I still have not finished applying all the changes she suggested.

In my defense, I’ve been quite busy finishing not one but two manuscripts. I’ve put together a proposal for a cozy I’d like to pitch to an agent. I’ve snagged two speaking engagements, AND I got my first copy editing job. Sound like I’m procrastinating?


That’s because I am. Editing is so painful sometimes—it involves cutting after all. Like a petulant child, I want to keep my story just as I envisioned it, with all of the details intact, and the storyline unchanged. In fact, when I started making revisions, I copied the entire manuscript into another folder and left the original intact, just in case I didn’t like the way it turned out. Hey, I never said I wasn’t stubborn.

In the long run, I know that the information gained from my experience with a freelance editor will prove invaluable. Now, instead of revising a faulty manuscript, I try and apply the changes early on, editing myself daily and looking for weaknesses in my characters before they become major plot holes. I’ve learned to outline—structuring the twists and turns of my novel long before I type the first word. Lastly, I’ve determined to be flexible, even if it means changing a major part of the story, based on the advice of critique partners. I’ll tell you more about that next week.

In the end, it’s still not easy, but whoever said writing was easy?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A funny thing happened on my way to the market…

Wait, that’s a different story.

It was the mailbox. . .er. . .my inbox. A funny thing happened on my way to my inbox. My manuscript was turned in, and I was waiting to hear from my editor on the rewrites. Instead, I received a message shortly before the conference that said something I never expected to hear.

Barbour is delaying the launch of their new mystery line.

There was more to the message, but for several heart pounding moments, those were the only words I could focus on. What did this mean? How long would we have to wait before our book would finally be published?

Okay, Lord, I thought to myself. I know you said all things work together for the good of them that love You, but this?

I reread the message, this time focusing on everything I’d missed the first time around. Words like “marketing push” and “advertising campaign” caught my attention. Slowly, the shock and disappointment wore off and I began to see everything Barbour was doing in a positive light.

Barbour wasn’t postponing the launch because they didn’t believe in the line, they were postponing it because they were committed to its success. With money earmarked toward publicity, and resources I could only hope to tap at their disposal, I suddenly realized that the execs at Barbour could accomplish something I could only hope for—a marketing blitz geared toward guaranteeing the success of my book.

A spark of excitement returned to my heart. Amidst a plethora of messages from new authors bemoaning low sales figures and pleas for ideas on boosting low sales figures, I felt a swell of gratitude for the caution and care with which Barbour was proceeding.

Okay, so I won’t try and pretend that waiting is easy, but I can with confidence say that it’s good. And while I still hope to hold my book in my hands early next spring, I’m more than willing to wait until the powers-that-be decide the time is ripe. After all, I have a sequel to write!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

It hit me the other day.

One moment, I was on top of the world, rejoicing over the fact that my words were down on paper and would soon be in the hands of readers. The next, I was scared witless over the fact that my words were down on paper and would soon be in the hands of readers.

What ever made me think I was called to write? How dare I think that I can string together a handful of words and make them into a coherent sentence that actually touches a reader’s heart? What if people hate my book? What if I get bad reviews and never sell another manuscript? For days, fear plagued me. Fear of failure, of bad sales figures, of. . .rejection. Now there’s a word.

I sank into uncertainty, felt its paralyzing effect on my writing. Not a word flowed from my fingers into my wip. I wrote a doggie devotional—three, in fact. I wrote a book review, a blog article, and a check to the electric company. But nothing for my wip.

“How’s the book coming?” a kind hearted soul at church asked.

“Fine,” I said, and then skipped the following Sunday so I didn’t have to answer that question again.

But God isn’t so easily dissuaded. I felt His pull upon my heart, the gentle question, ‘what are you hiding from?’ sounding in my brain.

“Well. . .God. . .I’m afraid.”

“Of what?”

“Of never being able to write another book.”


“Because. . .”

Uh-huh. There it is. I’m afraid I just got lucky the first time. I’m afraid that God wasn’t in it at all, and that I pulled a cosmic joke on the universe and somehow managed to get around the system. I’m afraid that there are other writers out there who are so much more deserving than I am, and that somehow, my shameful secret will be found out. Let me tell you, if I had any doubts before, they’ve certainly doubled now.

The good news is God isn’t into moody blues. He’s more interested in pulling me from my funk and reminding me of who HE is. I’m not writing for me, or my readers, or for reviewers. Fear and doubt? Those are the devils tools. God sees me where I am, whether it be high on the mountaintop, rejoicing over a victory, or deep in the valley, struggling with feelings of failure and doubt.
And He’s faithful.

Faithful to remind me how and when I knew I was called to write, to heal my insecurities, and renew in me a peace that passes understanding.

So yesterday, I got out my laptop and hesitantly typed the first words I’ve managed since before my writer’s conference. I wrote and erased the same line several times. The next line came a little easier. Soon, I’d written an entire chapter. It felt so good, and it reminded me. . .I’m not alone in my funk. God is there, helping me, sustaining me. He’s just not interested in staying there. And neither am I.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Before I was published, the process for submitting a manuscript was a long, sometimes grueling task. First came the query letter. Beyond that hurdle lay the proposal. After that, the full manuscript. Then the backcover copy. The list went on. I learned to sympathize with the pets in a circus performance. Here’s the hoop. Jump through.

As authors, we’re willing to do almost anything to see our work in print. We spend hours laboring over just the right turn of phrase for each and every paragraph. The query letter itself is polished to a fine sheen, for there have been times when those few precious lines were all an editor ever saw of my work. All they needed to see.

“Your manuscript does not fit our current publishing needs…”

Ugh. I have those words seared into my psyche, which is why going to Dallas to attend an annual writer’s conference proved such an interesting endeavor. Would anything be different now that I had the added credential of having sold a book on my resume?

“What have you got?” an editor asked me at dinner one night.

“A historical, set in Scotland around 1040.”

“Is it finished?”


“Send me a proposal.”

Excuse me. What?

Not, ‘fantastic, that’s just what we’re looking for,’ or ‘I’m sure it’s perfect, here’s a contract,’ but, ‘send me a proposal.’

Sigh. So not much is different, I’m afraid. Except…

Did I mention that I skipped right over the pitch? This editor didn’t ask me what the book was about, or how long I’d been writing, or if I’d taken time to research. One look at my nametag, emblazoned with the words, “Barbour Mystery Author,” was enough. I could almost see it on the person’s face. “You’ve sold. You’ve got to be pretty good. Send me what you’ve got.”

It wasn’t until I got back to my room that night that the full realization hit me. Writing will never be easy. It'll require all my energy, all my effort. There is no grand 'arrival.' Each step is part of a journey, one I gladly set out to take.

Yes, there’s still hoops, just not as many. And somehow, they’re not as daunting as they were before.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I received an interesting piece of mail the other day. Since it bore my publisher’s address, I was quite intrigued and couldn’t wait to get it home so I could open it. My hands trembled. I took in air with short, troubled gasps. What if my editor at Barbour changed her mind? What if Barbour didn’t want my book after all, and they were informing of their decision through a standardized form letter? Imagine my surprise when I pulled out a piece of paper with the words “Royalty Statement” emblazoned across the top! After all, my book isn’t even on the shelves yet.

Which I guess explains why the statement was blank. And why there was no check enclosed.

I got quite a chuckle out of this very first royalty statement, because although it was blank, and no fat check fell out of the envelope, it was a bit of confirmation for me, a proving almost, that I’m a working writer now, with real responsibilities.

So this is what it feels like, I pondered to myself. This is what my life will be like from now on. . .deadlines, royalty statements, book signings.

Well, except for the money ;-) I’d like to think that someday, I actually WILL have a check attached to my royalty statement. Until then, I think I’ll frame this one, sort of as a reminder to be humble, for no reward comes without hard work and sacrifice. Reminds me of a parable I heard once, about a servant with five talents. . .

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