I never knew that it was going to be such a rollercoaster of emotions between that contract signing and the release date.
Of course, each author will handle things differently, but for me, the emotions of editing my precious novel were surprising. I can only comment on my own experiences, and as I only have one publisher (the wonderful people at Dreamspinner Press), others may find it different. But for anyone who has ever thought of publishing a story, or is waiting for your first edits to hit – watch out!
The first emotion: Impatience.
For me, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas Day – I would check my email ten times a day, stare at the calendar and count down the days, alternating between excitement and dread. When writing and publishing, you seem to either be flat out busy, or waiting.
It was a good four months between signing on the dotted line and those first edits to hit. Some days I’d dance in the car park at the thought of my book being published. Other days I’d be biting my nails thinking that it was all a big cosmic joke. And still I counted off the days.
Then one day I received an email from the lovely woman who was to be my editor. I was so excited and rushed to reply, only to hesitate before sending that email. OMG! Should I be cool and polite, like a professional person in the workplace? Or should I be me? – daggy, hyper-excited and a total nutcase? This woman didn’t know me and whatever impression she had of me would be solidified from this initial email. Should I “pretend” to be a down-to-earth, coolly collected and sensible? Or should I be me?
The second emotion: Uncertainty.
Oh, dear – how was I going to pretend to be someone else over what would probably be a long standing relationship? I was seesawing between excitement that something was finally happening to my book, to uncertainty about what was coming and how I should act.
In the end I figured that my editor could just roll her eyes in front of her computer all the way on the other side of the world if she needed to. I was going to me, no matter what. We began our correspondence and got to know each other. I told her I was a total newbie at writing, so I would need lots of help and explanations. She told me that I needed to trust her and that what she was doing to my story was to help me.
I did trust her. I did know that it wasn’t personal, it was an experienced person trying to show me where I was going wrong and how to get it right.
And then she sent me the file. I had tried to prepare myself, but I couldn’t stop the wave of emotion at opening that document.
The third (fourth and fifth) emotion: Devastation, disbelief, depression.
I began to scroll through the corrections. Logically I was telling myself that it wasn’t personal, but that initial look is at your first edits is terrible. That manuscript that you sweated over? Those words that you stayed up to 2am writing? That scene you
missed your mother-in-law’s birthday for? They are all wrong! Wrong order, wrong tense, wrong meaning. Wrong wrong wrong!
I was wrong. I was hopeless. I was a failure!
So I did what I always do – I ran and hid myself in a book. I closed down the computer, picked up my Kindle and immersed myself in someone else’s problems and fantasy world (with a little bit of hot sex thrown in to keep me interested).
It took me a while, but I finally psyched myself up to look at the document again. I had to remind myself a dozen times that I (a) was an adult, (b) had signed a contract to do this, and (c) wanted to be an author.
The sixth emotion (which I know isn’t really an emotion): Learning.
Using Track Changes, I began to work through the edits. Some were easy (e.g. you need a comma here). Some were amusing (e.g. I think you meant to say “He chuckled” not “He chucked” which would totally change the meaning of that sentence). Some were frustrating (e.g. American readers will not know what a flat white is, you will need to explain it somehow).
Some were confusing, but I diligently accepted that my editor knew better than me and I changed what she said needed
changing. I struggled to understand some changes, but I tried to remember the why for my next book. Sometimes I could see immediately that the sentence worked better her way, other times I just shrugged and decided I wasn’t too fussed about it, and
if she thought it worked better, then so be it!
Hours passed. Days passed. My back became sore, my wrist ached from using the mouse so much, coffee became my best friend. I slogged on through. I read my story again and again. I vowed that I was changing the title of my book from Loving Jay to Hating Jay. I could nearly recite the dialogue in my sleep.
I ignored my housework, dinner was prepared and thrown on plates in the five minutes snatches I allowed myself, and I forgot
what my husband looked like. I became focused and diligently gave my all to the task. Finally, when I was sure that I could not improve it in any further way, I emailed it back to my editor.
The seventh emotion: Relief followed very closely by Mental Exhaustion.
I gave a rapturous sigh and crashed, emerging from my writing room and making pancakes for the kids. I had done it!
I don’t mean to imply that was it for editing, for there followed several hundred emails back and forth while we thrashed out
problems, discussed Australian vs America slang and tried to find a way that was acceptable to both of us. Then there was second edits where another editor had a look at our work and put her two-cents worth in. But the main bulk of the editing was done.
I spent several days catching up on RL (i.e. Real Life) and sleep. I found that I’d forgotten to water some of my plants and they had shrivelled during the week of editing. I did endless loads of washing and remembered to call my mother. But in the back of my mind a new emotion was growing. It was a recognition that those edits, no matter how tough, no matter how confusing, no matter how awful it was to take that first peek at that document, those edits were needed. Those edits strengthened the story. Those edits made my work better. Those edits were necessary.
The eighth emotion: Satisfaction, happiness, approval.
I smiled and sighed that I was still alive. When my editor emailed me with that final email, saying that my edits were being handed off to the next department (galley), I emailed her back and thanked her profusely (or at least I think I did – I’m going to have to check). She had done a fantastic job and must come across some really moody and stubborn authors in her time, but she survived me and I survived her.
At the end of it all, there is a great story – well edited, funny and heart-warming. And I get my name on the cover of this book, and she gets no recognition apart from the thankfulness of the author and a paycheque in the bank.
So at this time, I’d like to thank Liz – job well done! – and tell everyone that editors do a fantastic job under some tough conditions.
Despite the emotions that I’ve run through with the edits of my first novel, do you want to know something strange?
I’m coming back for more. I’m still writing. I’m still sending off those manuscripts to the publisher with fingers crossed and heart all hopeful. So I’m here to tell you if you are struggling with your edits, that you do survive.
Then, as you, the proud parent and author of a fantastic book, wave goodbye to that story that you have nurtured from
conception through to publication, you cry a bit. That story is gone, it’s over, you’ve done the best you can and now it is
about to be set upon the world.
You take yourself back to your writing room and you look at the calendar. Hmm – the next lot of edits should be coming Friday… And you wait with impatience, ready to start the rollercoaster again.