Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Humbling Experience

After finishing Southern Fried Women, and in the midst of speaking every week and selling my first book, I have been faithfully working on my novel, Televenge.

In January this year, I sent my 745-page manuscript (I know, eek) to several readers, 2 line editors, and 2 bonifide editors who "edit" for a living. Overkill? Not really. Most writers, after finishing what we feel to be one the final drafts of the manuscript, will send it to an editor. After several years of hard, hard work on this manuscript (it's not a book until it's published,) I finally got it down from over 1,000 pages to 745 pages. I felt it was time to send my umpteenth draft off to be professionally edited.

Editors (usually professionals you pay for) will check for all kinds of things. Story structure, scene and character development, pacing, conflict ... trust me, there's a laundry list of items an editor looks for. Line editors check for punctuation, spelling, grammar, and whatever else their eyes pick up.

It's a humbling experience.

On a story of this magnitude, I know it still has to be cut. I only had two people who made suggestions as to huge chunks of the story to cut. A few said, "Cut this and that, but not this, and certainly not that!" The rest said, "Don't cut a thing!" Well, as much as I would like to think New York would agree, it's just not realistic. So ... how did I sort it all out?

What I did was this: I made a master copy. Then, as the edits came in, I slowly and very, very carefully (I'm sooo anal) went through each and every page, transferring the changes, corrections, etc. onto my master copy. That way, as I rewrite and retype, I've only got ONE copy to look at. And it was interesting, as well, to see how many agreed and disagreed on certain things that needed changed, which made the decision easier for me. I'm just starting the retyping and cutting. It's another long, slow process. It may not be the best way, but so far, it's working for me.

(Still wanna be a writer?)

I figure, in the past two months, I've poured over 2,980 pages of my manuscript. (That's four copies X 745 pages.) That does not include the copies from readers who just gave me their overall opinions and my final editor who is suggesting major pieces to cut. That one, I've saved for last. I know ... why make edits on things you might be cutting? I guess normal people would look at it that way ... but God knows ... I ain't normal.

I'm just not sure where I'm cutting ... exactly. I have a good idea, but I want to get every "i" dotted and every "t" crossed first. I want to change lay to lie and shudder to shutter. Geeez. I've got to determine if I can do without certain characters and scenes as I go through them. It takes heavy-duty thinking. You've really got to wrap your head around your story. It's mind boggling and you need lots of alone time and quiet time. You stay up late, you work non-stop.

Please pray for me.

Often, my eyes go crossed and my head pounds. I have to get up and walk, get something to eat, or get away from it for a few hours. I've spent days laboring over one paragraph. I've gone back and changed one word five times. I've erased holes in the paper ... this final draft looks like a road map. It's by far the hardest and yet, most rewarding job I've ever had. God help me, but I'm determined to get this story into a tight, crisp, shorter, ripping-great book if it kills me.

But needless to say, it's been humbling.

Blessings to you and yours.

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