Thursday, February 25, 2010

More See-Ree-Us-Ness About Post-Offer Editing

Alright. So yesterday, I did the long-winded thing when answering Kristi's see-ree-us question about writey things. Frankly, I'm still astounded that I can b.s. that much--I mean, that I know so much about writing. Because I do. Know things. Like the average airspeed of a laden swallow. African AND European.

Yowza.

But the one drawback to my infinite knowledge is that it's, well, infinite. I can't shut up. I MUST SHARE MY KNOWLEDGE WITH THE WORLD! Unfortunately, I was so busy sharing ad nauseum that I didn't get to Masonian's question, which is also see-ree-us and writerly. So let's do that now, shall we?

Masonian was crazy enough to ask me the following: "And, how many drafts/rounds of serious editing did you go through of NP/NB before submitting to agent? What about since agent accepted? And since publisher accepted?" He also asked a question about frothy toe paste, but we're going to pretend we didn't notice that one.

You may not have known this, but Masonian owns the letter Z. He's also in an awesomesauce band, which is linked above. As far as I know, they don't sing about the letter Z, but they should.

But on to editing. See, this is kind of a difficult question for me to answer because I'm an obsessive editor. Every time I sit down to write a couple of pages, I end up editing the previous chapter. It helps me get back into the voice, especially if I've been away from the mannie for a couple of days. It has the unfortunate side effect of making the beginning of my books so tight you can bounce a quarter off them, but the endings not so much. I'm learning how to deal with this. I have a twelve step group. Steps three through twelve are exactly the same, but I've got twelve, damnit!

All in all, I think I edited the book around eight times before sending it to Fabulous Agent Kate. After she accepted, I did three in-depth edits, and by "in-depth," I really mean I completely rewrote the last quarter of the book. (See above twelve step program. Rewriting the ending is steps three through twelve. The first two steps are sitting down at the computer and turning it on.)

But here's the part I really wanted to talk about. Sadly, it took me this long to get here, but that's okay. I want to talk about the pre-offer edit. See, I was thrilled when Super Agent Kate emailed me to say we had interest in No Pain. Thrilled doesn't even begin to describe it; I quite literally ran around the house making this EEEEEEEEE! sound, called Slayer and left a completely incomprehensible message, talked to him, and then finally realized that I should write Kate back. By this time, my poor agent was wondering if I was still conscious and should she call 911.

But this was NOT an offer. This was an expression of interest IF I could cut some words. A lot of words. Like, over 10,000 words.

Now, there's one of two ways to look at this. Either you get discouraged that it's not an offer, and probably you'll spend all this time making these cuts, and she's going to hate it, and you'll be so ashamed that you'll go to the tattoo parlor and get "LOSER" put on your forehead so people are instantly aware of your shortcomings. Or you could think, "OMG! A real live editor has given me ideas on how to make my book better!" and realize that no matter what happens with this situation, you've won because you'll come out with an awesomesauce-squared book and maybe a publisher too.

I chose the latter. Partly because I don't want a forehead tattoo, but mostly because it seemed like the right way to go.

And I started cutting. I rallied my uber-seriously-beyond-fabulous critique group for suggestions and support. It took me a week to cut 15,000 words, reread the manuscript twice, and send it off to the lovely and astoundingly talented Kiersten for a fresh read. It all happened so fast that I quite literally forgot she'd read it and asked her again a few weeks later.

By this time, I barely recognized my own book. It had a brand new ending (again). One character and about a thousand high schoolers were cut from the manuscript entirely. It felt twenty times better than before. Funnier. More suspenseful. Less sucky. Less overpopulated with high schoolers. I sent it back to my agent asking her to thank Rock Star Wendy for her suggestions, and I really meant it.

The offer came within a week.

Sure, I would have loved to get the offer outright, but in a way, I'm ahead of the game going into editorial revisions. I've already tackled the biggest problem with the manuscript. There's still plenty left to do, but it feels doable now that I've gotten that first round over with.

The moral of this story is simple: Every revision is an opportunity.

Wow. That was deep.

25 comments:

Jonathon Arntson said...

15,000?1 I could feel that in my gut.

Kristi said...

Love this post as I'm close to finishing revisions but realize I'll have tons more to come once I have an agent/publisher.

I also love how you set yourself up for success by making your first 2 steps sitting down and turning on the computer. I've done that today so thanks to you, I feel like I've actually accomplished something! Thanks Carrie!

Kelly said...

Whoa.

Alissa said...

Sometimes this goes the other way around, where one doesn't write enough, or writes a book that is completely missing a real ending, and even so she can find someone who wants to publish it if she takes the time to fix it. Well, that's my story, anyway.

Samantha Bennett said...

This post was SO encouraging. I have an interested agent and I'm on my second round of revisions with her. I love your attitude. You're so right about looking at revision suggestions as opportunities. Congrats and EEEEEEEE! away!

Lizzy Mason said...

Carrie, I love your posts. You make me laugh daily. :)

But, see-ree-us-ly, you're fabulous--and this makes me feel much better about how I, too, re-read a chapter and edit before I can start writing new words. It's a sickness, or an obsession. It's a sicksession.

~Jamie said...

ohhhh that was deep.

Andrea Cremer said...

Great post, Carrie! I think many aspiring authors don't realize that showing your revising chops is offer part of getting an offer from an agent. Pre-offer revising isn't at all uncommon - thanks so much for sharing your experience!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

"Every revision is an opportunity."
That's one I need to stick in front of my face. Thx

Ello said...

Hey so should we call ourselves USBF for uber seriously beyond fabulous from now on? It has a certain je ne sais quoi about it...

Cate Gardner said...

If I was to remove 15,000 words from my wee book, I fear there wouldn't be much of it left. :D I think I need to steal a few of your axed high schoolers and add them to mine.

Masonian said...

ROCK! That was an awesome post!

I cut my first draft from 120k to 100k, second from 100k to 87k before sending to agent.

I'll prbably end up cutting about 5k more as I tighten up per her suggested revisions.
But I am like you, I edit previous chapters to get back into the voice. But usually I do it with a red pen and write the ms longhand. (old school!)

Thanks for the peak into your mad mad world. I shivered, but it was good.

mason

p.s. I allow you an extension on the use of the letter "z" through the year. But royalties to me still accrue, due Jan 1st. thankyougoodnight

chandlermariecraig said...

haha I love that steps one and two are sitting down and turning on the computer. That is soooo my revision list as well

Scillius Maximus said...

Observation: it was an UN-laden swallow. Not laden.

Follow up question: what was it like to be flung from the Bridge of Death into the Gorge of Eternal Peril?*

Inquiring minds want to know.


*Disclaimer: Yes. I watched The Holy Grail way too many times back in HS & College. In fact, still waiting for the the sequel - Holy Grail II: Crusading One Last Time

Anita Saxena said...

So you did 8 pre-agent submission edits. That makes me feel better. I'm somewhere near there. The only problem is the edits turn into rewrites. And then when you rewrite something, its something new, so then its bound to be faulty, and then you have to edit that, which then may lead to another rewrite. It's never ending! Ugh!

Laura Pauling said...

I think it's great you took the revisions as an opportunity instead of getting a Loser tattoo. Wisdom. Pure wisdom.

PJ Hoover said...

Deep and awesome, Carrie! It's a great post!

Keri Mikulski said...

So true!! :)

Elana Johnson said...

I LOVE this story! I love hearing how successful authors made it to where they are.

Thanks, Carrie!

kanishk said...

I've done that today so thanks to you, I feel like I've actually accomplished something! Thanks Carrie!

Work from home India

K. M. Walton said...

I can't wait to read your book, Carrie. It'll be cool because as a reader, I'll know the writer's back story and journey and all of the hard work and dedication.

Alissa said...

If you stop by today, I have a blog award waiting for you!

Jen said...

Loved this post!!! A great first post for me to start following! I am not to the revisions part yet but I do know that after several revisions there will still many more when an agent and publisher is found!

lora96 said...

That's a lot of words to have to cut. Meanwhile thank you for your honesty. We all assume that you just rock with innate awesomeness, no revision required, and it gives hope to the discouraged peasantry. :)

Daisy Whitney said...

MY book deal was similar. I did one final round of edits for editor before Little Brown bought my book.