He'll never sit quietly through all that, I predicted. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Well, my estimation of the time and effort it would take to get through the editor's changes, questions, and instructions turned out to be woefully light. I figured I could do it over a weekend. Instead, I started working on it when it arrived the Thursday before last, got into it seriously last Saturday, and finished only last night -- two half days plus a week of 8 - 12 hours a day grind. But finished it is! Now it's the publisher's turn to examine my work and decide what, if anything, additional needs to be revised before the wording is deemed final.
So what are the changes? If you count raw numbers, the vast majority were minor formatting or style adjustments, for instance undoing italics which the editor felt I had overused. I didn't quibble with (hardly) any of those. There were some word choice changes and minor sentence restructuring, all of which I agreed with. There were some questions where I made minor revisions to clarify points the editor found vague or ambiguous.
And then there were some overhauls. Not many, none that fundamentally altered the story or any scene, but substantial nonetheless. I posted previously the addition I made to raise the profile of Michael's resurrected cat. He also had me enhance the presentation of Vicki early in the book. He had me intensify the roots of Michael's water phobia. He had me trim passages that had some importance but were not essential to the plot. And he had me elaborate on things like the island rescue plan, which he felt was not spelled out well enough in advance.
Being a graduate of Arizona State University, he aslo had me alter a few of my descriptions of that state. Working on those made me tremble in fear about the problems he would call out in the Texas section, as that's where the publisher is located. Miraculously, there were none. :)
All of these changes were improvements. I had some trepidation when the publisher told me the overall length needed to be addressed, which was before the editor read the book. As it turned out, it will be about the same length as the original. Apparently the editor felt, having read it thoroughly, that the length was justified. I had been prepared for some serious cutting, and it was a relief not to have to go into things that invasively. If a book is good I prefer a long one to a short one, and it's gratifying to know the editor felt it was worth the extra printing cost to tell the story as I wrote it.
I had been particularly worried about edits to the Boston section, which started as one convoluted chapter about Dan Hendrick's physics theory but expanded to three chapters to clarify points my readers group found confusing. He'll never sit quietly through all that, I predicted. I couldn't have been more wrong. The editor loved it, making practically no changes through that entire section. Having worked that material to death during the writing process, I wasn't looking forward to another round. The editor's happy assessment took me totally by surprise.
The editor made his notes as he was reading, reflecting his impressions from a first-time reader's perspective. That was critical, because knowing the whole story blinded me to some ambiguities. He got frustrated at certain points, mostly the same ones as my readers group, but like them, by the end of the book he felt they had been satisfactorily resolved. I'm content with those frustrations so long as the reader feels satisfied once the veils come down. I knew there was risk in hiding answers readers would be pining for, but I felt it necessary in order to reward them with a gratifying sense of triumph by the end.
There is one outstanding issue. The editor wanted the nature of Charlie Paris to be disclosed earlier than it was. Looking for ways to do this, I wasn't able to come up with an approach I felt would improve the book more than damage it. I've laid out my reasons in the returned document, and I'll go with whatever the editor decides.
It was exhausting and sometimes emotionally painful to go through 600 pages of questions, changes, and criticism. But it was appropriate and necessary, and it gave me the sense of being a "real" author for the first time. While the process was taxing, it was humbling and inspiring to have a professional editor take so mucn time and effort with my work. It's a better book for it, no doubt. I can't wait to see it finalized and out the door so people can see the improvements first-hand. :) - Mark
Michael swallowed. It was all he could do to hold back tears of his own
I'm about 2/3 the way through the publisher's edits now and should be done no later than the middle of this week. I underestimated somewhat the extent of their changes and the amount of effort it was going to require from me--there are after all more than 600 pages, with at least something altered on almost every one. But my initial assessment remains valid that nothing fundamental is involved and the vast majority of it is barely noticeable stylistic tweaks. Most the "on every page" comes from alterations like inserting a space before ellipses or converting the "M-dash" style I used to the one the publisher prefers.
They are having me make a small number of substantive revisions, and I thought you might like a practical example. Below is the most significant change I've made so far (just three paragraphs long). They felt that Michael's reunion with his childhood pet Alex, the Siamese cat who becomes a powerful panther in the Afterlife, needed some emotional foundation. So I have added this little subsection into the scene in Chapter 8 where Michael ends up paying for a stranger's pet bird to have surgery. "Beaker" is the little parrot involved.
"Michael swallowed. It was all he could do to hold back tears of his own.
His comprehension of the man's suffering went beyond empathy. It evoked acute
memories of a tightly bonded pet in his own life, an atypically warm and placid
Siamese cat named Alex that had been rescued by his mother when a co-worker
moved to an apartment that forbade animals. Like Beaker, Alex had been a family
pet not intended specifically for Michael or his brother, both in grade school
at the time. And like Beaker, the cat had nonetheless of its own accord, and for
reasons that defied discovery, adhered with obvious preference to one person in
It had matured into a joyous, life-affirming symbiosis. Wherever Michael
went the cat could be found, perfectly content as long as it could be near him.
Alex had established ingenious habits to manifest his affection in ways
unobtrusive yet intimate, nesting himself in Michael's lap while he watched TV,
squeezing into the gap between the chair and the small of Michael's back at
homework time, draping himself on Michael's pillow each night like a set of
warm, hypnotically breathing earmuffs around his master's
Then, when the boys were in high school, Alex had developed lesions. A
patch of skin on his left hindquarter had erupted in a bloody sore the size of a
quarter, which gradually grew into an obviously agonizing malignancy affecting
the entire limb. By that time the cat could only drag the leg around
dysfunctionally. Nothing could be done, and at last Michael's near-hysteria at
the thought of life without his companion was overtaken by a resolve to end his
misery. Michael had insisted on accompanying his friend to that terminal
appointment with the vet, and as it turned out, when the day came only Michael
was able to go. Alone in the parking lot afterward, Michael had collapsed onto
the asphalt in a seizure of anguish, his keys hanging from the car door, such a
forlorn spectacle that the receptionist had abandoned her desk to come out and
hold him reassuringly until he regained enough composure to
It's great after such a long emotional relationship with the book to be experiencing this tangible evidence that it really is going to be published. The work that remains is taxing, but it's a good kind of work to have. :) - Mark