You know that feeling when you have been working on something for forever and think it’s perfect, then another person causally, within seconds of looking at it, finds the flaw you never could focus on?

It’s both maddening and exhilarating. On one hand, that’s my baby! On the other hand, how could I have been so blind? Also, now I get the chance to fix it and make it better. But UGGHHHHH that’s going to take a lot of WORK!

So maybe you’ve guessed, but I have been eyeballs deep in editing, revising, and trying to publish my second book. This should have been easier than the first one since I’ve already been through the demoralizing and frustrating process. But somehow, it’s been worse.

I think part of my problem was that I felt so amazed by the response to my first novel that I really wanted to do a good job with the second one. Like, my sophomore album couldn’t be a flop. So, there’s more pressure now with the second.

It all started with the developmental memo letter, where I was immediately overwhelmed. I used the same developmental editor as my first novel and she is someone who has been editing my best friend’s novels for more than 8 years.

Before sending it on to the editor, I did my own deep dive back into the book. I started writing this book in about 2016 and I knew there were problems. I tackled tense issues, flow issues, and was even (I thought) brutal with myself on what should stay and what should go. I cut 5 whole chapters on my own before even sending it to her!

I was doing really good, A+!

So, I started reading the memo letter and the first paragraph is all about she liked the book and not to freak out about the coming criticism. Which had me immediately in a freak out! You don’t start with a blow softening if the coming blow is minor.  Some of the criticism I knew was coming. I’m not the best with grammar and verb tense is hard in a narrative form. But other things were totally unexpected. She’s recommended some pretty major edits to the book. Deletion of certain characters POVs, extraction of an entire b-subplot, and a complete rewrite of the ending.

Apparently, I’m NOT fine! I must suck completely! How did I think I could do this? I’m not a fiction writer. I should just stick to my lane and do this on the side for fun. No one wants to read my tripe. AGGGGRRRRRHHHHHHH!

As a general rule, I try to read criticism once, then put it down for some period of time to digest it. I have always done this with big projects in the hopes that my emotions won’t become engaged and overrule my good sense. So, I read the letter through once, then put it down for a day. The next afternoon, I was ready to actually thing about the ideas presented.

I thought about what she said about my ending. And thought about it some more. And some more. And some more.

Then I argued with her about it. And argued some more. And argued some more and …………..

We went 12 rounds, and they were bloody!

In the end I decided to trust her on the ending and re-wrote it with a completely different final scene and changed some pretty major plot points to fit her suggestions.

Then I took MONTHS to do the re-write. I took so long, that I had to delay the proofreader TWICE. I just couldn’t make myself sit down and work on it. That probably should have been my first sign that something was wrong. My writing has always been organic, the story coming through my fingers faster than I can actually type. If I’m inspired, I can pump out 5000 words after dinner. In fact, I was so blocked that I ended up starting a fanfic in a different genre altogether. I needed to work on something I was happy with for a while.

I finally finished the re-write, sent it to my proofreader and then got ready for ARC distribution.

You all even got the first ARCs of my book since I announced it here first that they were ready for download.

And within 4 days of putting out my ARC, I had several comments that identified EXACTLY what was wrong with my book’s ending.

Now, I would like to say that in general, most of my editor’s suggestions were right. She’s always made my writing better, and this was no exception. However, I should have stuck to my guns on the ending.

My original ending was central to the theme of my entire book. What I was trying to say and the original inspiration for the story. Without it, there was really no heart to the story. I had ripped out the beating heart and replaced it with a cold, metal pump.

I have been GUTTED about this for three months. I had planned on a May release, but as you all know, I’ve not put out the actual book yet. The ARCs are still available at my website, but I’m torn about what to do with the actual book. Do I go with the ARC version and move on to the third book? Or do I do another re-write?

The book lover in me says I must finish what I started and only really let it go once I love it as much as a mom is supposed to love her babies. I have to do the second re-write. I think I can do it with a prologue and a reversion to the original ending. But now I need to muster the emotional energy to finish and stop putting it off.

Thank you to this group for being here for my on my writing journey. I’m so glad to be part of a supportive community which is honest and kind. The community is why I do this, and you all give me energy to do the frustrating things.

Come find me in all the normal locations!

3 responses to “The Red Pen!!!”

  1. Alice Spaulding Taylor McVeigh Avatar

    Very interesting post!!! I applaud the honesty with which you shared this book’s journey with us!!! I also empathise. I had a very similar, rather torrid, experience to yours, with my speculative fiction, LAST STAR STANDING, by pen name Spaulding Taylor (2021).

    This book seemed to come out of nowhere – not contemporary fiction, not Austenesque. I felt I HAD to write it but I couldn’t get the hero’s – Aiden’s – character arc right to save a human life. So my then-publisher, Unbound, sent it over to their preferred developmental editor, in Scotland. I was pretty huffy about this, having by that point WORKED as a developmental editor professionally for over fifteen years personally. BUT… I was FAR too close to Aiden to see the wood for the trees. The editor dissected the problem scientifically, and gave me three possible ways forward – any one of which could have worked. She was utterly brilliant!!!

    So, it was back to the drawing board and, in the end, a novel that was a finalist in the Chanticleer’s Cygnus Award, the international Book Awards, the Eric Hoffer Award, the Wishing Shelf Award etc. None of this could have happened without that developmental editor!!! But yes, I felt like a rabbit lost down an unfamiliar rabbit-hole… desperately seeking a way to the surface. (And I also found, through one of her suggestions, the answer to why I HAD to write it. Aiden, I always knew, was me, But I hadn’t realised that he/I had UNDIAGNOSED ADHD. Someday I’m going to write an article about how this book changed my life.) Anyway, it’s hard for an author, perhaps especially an ex-ghostwriter, to accept that a developmental editor is needed, but they really CAN be, and I’m sure your novel will be even better because of yours.


  2. Glynis Avatar

    OMG! I can imagine how hard that must be, fighting for your own ending, then giving way only to find yours was best after all! I’m sorry to say that I think your only option for happiness is to go back to your original if you can, otherwise you will never be truly proud of it. Having the inspiration to write such lovely stories in the first place is a definite achievement. I don’t have this talent so really appreciate those who do and the efforts they put in to make their work the best they can.

  3. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I agree I would go with your gut as they say. You know what works best for your story. Hopefully you will get it all worked out. I’m sure your book will be great!

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