People have asked me if I’m just changing words around at this point to suit the taste of others. Is it really possible, after all these years, that I am making it better?
My answer is yes, it is still getting better. The project is maturing in ways that my vision, unaided, may not have supported. Here are three late-in-the-game changes that substantially improved the manuscript:
• Cutting. At the request of my agent (and with the editorial help of Janice Gable Bashman), I brought the word count down from 98,000 to Katie’s suggested 85,000 words. This length was more saleable for a debut women’s fiction title, she said. When I despaired that I couldn’t budge it lower than 86,500, I went through and checked for uses of the words “even” and “just”—and “even” though I’m a developmental editor already sensitized to their overuse, I was able to cut an additional 1100 words. At this length concision itself—in my novel, as in a poem—began to work its own special magic.
• Moving a large emotional turning point into the middle of the book. Katie loved the way so many story arcs came to such satisfying conclusion in my novel. But they did so in a row, at the end, bam-bam-bam. As a reader awaiting these, Katie started to feel detached from my protagonist through the middle. Was there a turning point I could move up? I immediately identified the right one, which allowed another to move up as well. The middle now had more emotional punch.
• Clarifying the timeline. The opening of my book raises two story questions—what caused this dancer to part from the penthouse balcony, and what will she do to recreate her life from a point of zero movement. A challenge in interweaving the resulting dual timelines is that the intrusion of one can make it difficult to track time in the other. How long has it been since we were in the last segment of current story—an hour? A week? A month? Shana, my Sourcebooks editor, asked that I embed clues to clarify the timeline. In a separate note, she said she’d lost track of my character’s bruising, mentioned at the start and then abandoned. I have now created a timeline of bruising to ground the reader in both the story chronology and my character’s physical recovery, layering another colorful thread into the project.
Although I’m thrilled at the further development of my book, I do not want to downplay the fact that traditionally published authors must indeed care about pleasing their editors. While mine have been responsive in our ongoing collaboration, I now work for them. They purchased the rights to this work, paid me an advance, and are investing in the cover design, publicity plan, production, and distribution. For these perks I am more than happy to continue to create the best possible product.
Just catching up? Here are links to the other posts in this series:
Countdown to a Book 1: Joining Hands
Countdown to a Book 2: Pitching
Countdown to a Book 3: Getting My Agent
|Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her women's fiction and memoir are represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Her essay Memoir of a Book Deal tells the larger story while also serving as a primer on story structures. To follow her writing please "Like" her Facebook Author Page. She follows back most writers on Twitter.|