As I write this, the Devil is beating his wife. That’s an old saying I learned from my mother and grandmother, and probably originates in the rural South. It refers to the weather, and means that rain is falling while the sun shines. Looking out the window, I can see a sheer curtain of bright, light-struck raindrops. In my novels, the Devil doesn’t have a wife to beat. But . . . just wait till you see what he does instead.
The afternoon of Friday, October 21st, I completed the final revision of The Space Between, the first book of my fantasy series-in-progress. Within minutes I’d sent it off to Danielle Hartman Acee. She and Mindy Reed are the two principals behind the editing/publishing/promotional services firm The Authors’ Assistant, the folks I’ve enlisted to help me complete the steps to self-publication.
The book still isn’t quite ready to publish. I wish. Several things remain to be done—exciting things, like commissioning an artist to design the cover, and embarking on the promotional plan. But before the fun stuff starts, there’s another editing step: the copy edit. For that, my book will have to wait its turn behind the books of other Authors’ Assistant clients. Danielle tells me that this is a busy time of year, with many books scheduled for release over the holidays. It will be probably another week before mine reaches the front of the copyeditor’s queue. This doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I’ve waited 11 years to get this book into the world. I can wait a little longer.
Danielle is a copyeditor, and will also be the brains behind the book’s promotion. Here she is:
I can’t tell you how good it felt to get that last revision wrapped up and the book into her hands. It took me several weeks, and I sweated blood over it. In some ways it was the hardest revision I’d ever done on the manuscript (and there have been at least ten). Why did I put myself through that agony? Well, it was necessitated by the step I wrote about in September 8th’s post, “Once More. With Feeling, Dammit!”: the all-important developmental edit.
*insert the shrieks of damned souls here*
The developmental edit is a step I wanted to leave out. I’ve read what other self-published novelists (the successful ones) have to say about it. It’s not cheap, but they believe it’s essential. Because no matter how many times you’ve revised your own book, and how many beta readers you’ve had, nothing can take the place of a professional editor’s eyes on your manuscript. You pay this person to closely analyze your book’s structure, story arc, character development, dialogue, writing style, and everything else that constitutes the “meat” of your novel. And all of that is why I wanted to skip this step. Because I have a long history of avoiding unpleasant truths. But noooooo. The Authors’ Assistant wouldn’t let me off the hook.
Mindy Reed is the firm’s developmental editor, with two-plus decades of experience in the editing business. Here she is:
She’s a brisk, no-nonsense person who told me in our first meeting that, if my book was a “train wreck,” then she would tell me flat out, and there might not be anything they could do for me. That words of praise were what an author’s family and friends were for. And after that meeting, I was foolish enough to hand my manuscript—and all of my characters, people I know as well as I know my own family, who trust me to tell their story to the world—over to her. What in God’s name had I done?
Needless to say, I was very nervous while I waited for Mindy to complete her developmental edit. I had no idea what to expect, but after her “train wreck” opening salvo, complete evisceration seemed a distinct possibility. When she gave The Space Between back to me, I was relieved to see almost all of my 128,000-plus words were there, in the order I’d written them, but there were still plenty of changes I had to consider.
As I made my way through her suggestions, I sometimes had to struggle to keep an open mind, but I’m very glad I did. I agreed with many of her edits, and made the changes word for word. There were others that I didn’t agree with as strongly, though I understood her editorial reasoning. In those cases I remembered her prior assurance to me that she believes the author has the last word, and I used my judgment to make the changes—if any—accordingly.
But, odd as it sounds, it was her edits that I violently disagreed with that helped me the most. Every time I came to one of those, I was, first, shocked at her suggestion, and second, forced to think. She’d seen something amiss and tried to fix it. Why? Where had the manuscript gone wrong? The result was that I took those paragraphs and scenes apart and examined them more closely. Then I rewrote them. It slowed me down, but it was worth doing. The Space Between was a good book before. Thanks to Mindy, now it’s even better.
And can I just tell you one word—an incredible word—that Mindy used to describe my book after she was done reading it? Used twice, in fact? Because it shocked and thrilled me so much that I can’t keep it to myself anymore? “Magnificent.” Yes. That’s right. And when I read that, I almost cried.
When the book is published, I’ll have some wonderful people to dedicate it to. You know who you are. You’ve helped me so much along the way, believing in me, and in the work itself, and never once did you lose faith.
Eleven years. It’s going to happen. The waiting is almost over . . .
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