Rolling Downhill Toward Release
I wasn't looking forward to the daunting task of trying to remove more than a third of the content
The last edits from the publisher came in last Friday, and I'm in the process of working through them to finalize the text. I haven't been posting every development in the project to Facebook for awhile, nor even communicating them at all really, in order to avoid frustration that might morph into disinterest over the succession of delays. But when this document arrived, I notified a handful of friends and family that the long wait for this crucial bit of progress was over, and said that based on comments in the cover note I expected a very simple and brief process to get the edits done.
That turned out to be a bit overly optimistic. The publisher is definitely pleased and encouraging with how the book has turned out, but there are in fact a fairly large number of new changes in this draft for me to accept, reject, or modify. It's not a comment every page like the first round was, but probably every other page, which is still more than 300 points to resolve. I still think I can get it done within the coming week -- the first edits took me about nine days -- but it's not going to be the one or two hour cakewalk I initially expected.
At a summary level, I've found two things about this round of changes noteworthy. First, unlike the initial 600 pages that came from the editor, this draft contains both his work and an equal amount of input and commentary from the publisher herself. I guess she has editors clean things up in a first pass so that her own detailed input can be applied closer to the finished product. This makes sense, I just wasn't expecting it (I had the impression that the editor was out of the picture and this round would just be the publisher's fine tuning). The second thing that surprised me has to do with length. As I've noted before, the length for a novel favored by most publishers is about 100,000 words, especially when the author is unpublished. And sure enough, when 48fourteen contracted for my book, one of their initial comments was that the overall length would need to be reduced. Having done my homework about selling fiction, I had expected that assessment -- I had bent the rules a little as it was to label the manuscript as 150,000 words. But when I got the editor's first thorough assessment, I was surprised to see that he had walked the length comment back. He had concluded that my book was an exception, that the length was justified for telling the story properly and that they would accept the additional costs of publishing it with the overall structure intact. Round One actually pushed the word count up a little, to around 170,000 words. And now, far from imposing difficult deletions, the manuscript is up to 177,000. I'm really glad I didn't have to eviscerate the story in order to fit it into the standard framework -- I was prepared to do that, I had planned out prospective pieces to cut, but I wasn't looking forward to the daunting task of trying to remove more than a third of the content without destroying the intended tale. It's now clear that I won't have to, and it's very pleasing that they think enough of the book's merits to make this accommodation.
I am doing one thing this time that I tried to avoid on the first edits. I am holding my ground when I disagree with a change, instead of mutely swallowing every revision I could choke down during Round One. There's not a whole lot of this -- these people are professionals and their recommendations are overwhelmingly obvious improvements -- but there spots where I really do feel my wording achieves the objective better, or that some artistic license, such as a brief detour into the mind of a character other than Michael, is warranted. I've thought a lot about the book since turning my first edits back to the publisher months ago, and over that time I have decided that if I didn't insist on a few deviations from their counsel here and there, it would rob me of true confidence that the version of The Just Beyond that goes on sale was the best it could be. Readers will be the ultimate judge, but there is some significance to my own enthusiasm -- it is the fuel upon which the marketing campaign will run, the impetus for me to sustain a high level of effort and enthusiasm in working to make the book a commercial success.
I truly have practiced my own preaching as this process has rolled out, maintaining a genuine patience and faith that the investment of time is worth the postponed gratification. I want the book out, my excitement for that hasn't diminished, but in the long term what's most important is that it's given every chance to succeed when publication does come. And I'm satisfied that is in fact what this long process is doing. I'm not projecting any firm dates, but I don't expect football season to be too far along before The Just Beyond finally hits the stands. - mark