AMY SPALDING, author of The Reece Malcolm List: When I was a writer dreaming of having a book published, I had a pretty good idea for what the editorial process was like. But once I actually got my book deal and then…my editorial letter…well, it’s one thing to know what something is. It’s quite another to actually go through it.
I got together with some of my editor Stacy Cantor Abram’s other writers, so we could share what we actually went through!
Ladies, the moment I got my edit letter and marked-up manuscript, I had what felt like twenty-seven anxiety attacks. I began reading the letter, and it was so overwhelming I could only skim it. I paged through the document but it made me so nervous I just had to print it and then pretend it didn’t exist. That night, I kept sneaking peeks at the letter, just a liiiiiiittle more at a time, trying desperately to get comfortable with it. THAT NEVER HAPPENED.
A few days later, I knew that even if I wasn’t ready, my deadline said I had to be. I want to stress here that it wasn’t that I couldn’t take hearing what was wrong with my book. I was actually freaked out by the potential Stacy saw in my book. I was so worried I’d never get there!
Lisa, did you go through a meltdown too or was I particularly, uh, dramatic?
LISA BURSTEIN, author of Pretty Amy:I’ve been fortunate enough to get two editorial letters from Stacy, one for PRETTY AMY and one for the upcoming DEAR CASSIE and just like you Amy, when I first got them I skimmed them. They were each 6 pages long- single spaced- far too much to read and absorb in one sitting. The thing is in both cases is that Stacy has been right on. What she notes as issues in my Mss are usually the things I *think* I can get away with, that when she brings them up, I know I cannot. She also pushes me to go deeper, which is what any good editor should do.
Here is how the edit went for PRETTY AMY:
I skimmed the letter, once, twice and slept on it. Then I printed it and highlighted the areas I knew I needed to attack in my first edit. Character issues mostly. Then I completed another edit for the smaller issues before I sent it back to Stacy. At that point she did a line edit and it came back to me. I did another edit and it went back to her. To tie up loose ends there was one more edit before it went to copy edits. Once I approved copy edits, it went to Liz Pelletier, Publisher of Entangled for a final read through. She had even MORE edits. It was not a short process, but I know both Stacy and Liz helped me make PRETTY AMY the most amazing book it could be.
Rachel, did you have a similar amount of edits and anxiety?
RACHEL HARRIS author of My Super Sweet 16th Century:
Anxiety over edit letters and revision? Of course not! And if you believe THAT, well, insert incredibly clichéd, sarcastic phrase here (*grin*). Yes, I think every author has a healthy fear of the dreaded editorial letter. I should be getting my second one from Stacy any day now for my sequel, and even after going through this whole process before, I’m still anxious over it.
I remember we were driving home from the salon where my girls got their haircut, and my husband was in the driver’s seat. My phone did that spastic lighting up/vibrating thing, letting me know I had an incoming email, and when I saw it was my edit letter from Stacy, I about had a heart attack right then and there. Obviously, because I’m a neurotic author, I opened my inbox immediately….and was promptly informed by my lovely phone that the email was too big to open.
Imagine my jaw hitting the floor of the car here.
There’s no way that could be good, right??
Well, it turns out that Stacy just rocks and gives tons of great info for you to use to make your book better. The reason it wouldn’t open was that in addition to the edit letter, she had printed out my entire manuscript, made notes old school style in pen on the pages, and then scanned them back in. Hence, an email that was too big for my then pathetic excuse for a phone. But once I got home and dove into all the info Stacy gave me, all the previous fear and anxiety vanished, leaving me strangely…excited.
You should know that I’m a bit obsessive, so I was able to turn my edits back in to Stacy about a week later, after first making all the changes from the scanned pages, and then tackling the bulleted list in her letter (all points I agreed with). Then about a month later, Liz Pelletier gave me her thoughts, along with two main issues to address, which I completed that day because, again, I’m a tad obsessive. Fast forward to the end of April when I got copy edits. These were super fun because they made me sound smarter than I really am. I turned these in two days later. At the end of July, Stacy and I both did a mega two-day final read through of the manuscript to make sure it was how we wanted it before going to the printer, and then it was out of my hands. And into yours at home.
Scary, exciting, crazy, and—weirdly enough—fun.
What about you, Cindi? Am I odd to think the editing process, at least with a super star like Stacy, is actually fun?
Why, yes, Rachel, you are extremely odd ;) I’m a tad on the obsessive side, too, where once I get feedback, my brain won’t let me think about anything but my WIP, revisions, or whatever process I’m in. Honestly, when I first opened the editing letter, I was overwhelmed. I’d done a couple different revisions with a couple different agents, who I ended up not signing with. Then I set my book aside for a few months and wrote a different book. But my manuscript kept calling to me, telling me it wanted to be a book people read someday. (At this point, you realize I’m also slightly crazy, in addition to being obsessive) So I got it out and did a major revision again, heard about Entangled, and queried. So fast forward the yay, they want it! to the edit letter. I had to do ANOTHER revision. I worried that the book would no longer be mine. I worried I wouldn’t be able to do everything Stacy wanted. But after thinking and obsessing for the weekend, I dug in.
Stacy’s suggestions led me to add things about my book I really love. She had me take out some things I’d added to make other people happy—I was actually glad to lose some of that. She challenged me and pushed me. I turned it in a couple weeks later, happy with how things had turned out. But when I got the second revision back, there were still some things that needed work. I got super overwhelmed and thought that maybe Stacy didn’t want the story I’d written. As an author, I’d been waiting for an editor for so long, I was under the impression you just do everything they say, no questions asked. I was reaching extreme levels of anxiety. So I finally just wrote Stacy an email, addressing my concerns and where I wanted the story arcs to be, and how I felt conflicted on a couple of points. She emailed me back in record time, assuring me she loved the story, and that we could talk about any and all points. The stress that had been building melted. It was such a relief to know that we were on the same team, that I could still be true to my story, and that I could talk to her whenever I needed to. So I worked really hard to get to a point that she and I would both be happy. Later came the read through by Liz and copy edits. By that point, it’d been a few months, so it was easier to read my book again and do some final touch-ups. I changed a couple more things, and when I finally got to read through the galley and see the entire transformation, I was giddy and so, so happy and grateful to Stacy for sticking with me through the entire process. I feel like my book is now the book it was always meant to be. I’m not sure I’d say I’m excited to do it again—I’m just not great at the revision process—but I’m definitely excited to know that in the end, I’ll have a pretty book I love and can be proud of.
It was fun seeing how we all dealt with the letter. If you'd like to share your thoughts on your edit letter or have any questions, feel free to comment!