I Can See Clearly Now—Pre-Publishing Tools

(This post continues the series.)

I’m an addict.

My agent is preparing for a big conference, where she’s going to hog-tie acquisitions editors about my work. (She’s that passionate. For the record, I believe passion about a client’s work is a critical element in identifying the right agent. Their contacts and track record are also important, but never forget the agent is your sales interface with publishers.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lead manuscript in my series will be re-edited in July, but that editor is in Ireland now. So to prepare for conference, and to include my best with other materials we’ve discussed in this series, we sent a few chapters to another editor working in suspense. I asked her to kill my work; make it bleed. She obviously listened to my instructions. See the red? Oy vey.

A manuscript is a lot like a child: it gestates, is born, then needs training. I adore my kids, and sometimes can’t see their flaws. I have difficulty finding issues, omissions, and logic leaps in my documents too, so an editor’s eyes help me pinpoint areas where I’d possibly lose a reader.

What was so special about this edit? She asked questions. How did my protagonist feel about a particular situation? How long would it take a camel and rider to get from point A to point B? What would her husband be doing in the barn while waiting for his son to pick up the phone? These are small things, but missing details that interested the agent—and probably eventually, reader—enough to make her inquire.

When I received the original edit a year ago, it looked a lot like the one in the photo. (Actually, it looked worse. The red column often ran off the page, dripping into my screen’s gray netherworld.) But the edit lacked the inquisitive nature obvious in this most-recent assault. Grammatical kinks are long gone, so this was a great time to probe more specific details, develop deeper psychological nuance in each character. Both edits were important. The second was transformational.

For the first time, I see my story’s beginning as I knew it could be told. I’m proud of it, and know I’m equipping the agent to represent me (and herself) well.

Some writers think an edit is unnecessary. Others view edits as little more than necessary evils. I’m beginning to think a superb editor might just be my best friend. As I said, I’m an addict.