The manuscript I returned today is free of every nit that bothered me
It was the 25th of September, 2012, when after ten months of intense work, endless refinement, and the invaluable help of so many generous readers, I lay the pen down and called the submission draft of The Just Beyond complete. It would be cliché to say "little did I know that was just the beginning," but I actually did know. I figured if I was lucky, the book might see print a year from then, and I wasn't going to be discouraged if it took a year or more just to sell it. I also knew that once the contract was signed, more grueling polish work awaited -- months, at least, of editing. I have never published a novel before, but I have written and marketed my work several times, and I wasn't under an illusion that the book would magically appear on store shelves the day after some publisher showed interest.
It's been a twisty road, but today I find myself about where I expected. The final edits, my second round of work from the publisher after the editor took his second run through, was completed today. I'm very happy with the results. On the first pass I pretty much accepted whatever the editor said, didn't look far beyond it, and turned my review back to them within one week. This time, with fewer edits to work through, it took me a month. It made a difference to me knowing that this was probably the last opportunity I'd have to get things right. And I took that seriously. The manuscript I returned today is free of every nit that bothered me -- cutesy turns of phrase I wasn't sure were beneficial, inconsistencies that didn't ruin the story but still stuck in my mind, unanswered or inadequately answered questions. With this draft, if anyone asks me, "Well, what about ----?" I can confidently say, "That is fully explained in Chapter --" content in the knowledge that a clear and satisfying answer really is there. What's more, I've been able to integrate this first book with the second one, The Far Beyond, which I'm in the process of writing. Certain points that developed while working on that sequel, which were not necessarily critical to The Just Beyond, are now artfully set up. It will provide the readers who stick with me a seamless experience as they journey through the full Beyond trilogy.
The most significant change I made was, coincidentally, the last. There was always a certain amount of ambiguity as to why Michael couldn't find Vicki when he arrived in the Afterlife. A two page scene has been added explaining this with crystal clarity. It's an emotional scene, with some unexpected conflict--and conflict, I believe, is the fuel upon which good fiction runs. I'll be sending the new excerpt by email to those I know won't want to wait to see it.
So what's next? Well, in addition to addressing all of the editor's points, I did make a small number of "major" changes which the publisher will have to review. None is more than a couple of pages, most are a paragraph or two, but it's new material they will need to approve. I don't expect problems, but they could require some refinement of those sections. That will be okay. I've been happier with the book in each iteration, and doing what the publisher suggests only bolsters my confidence that the released book will be as good as it can be.
What I expect is that the editing is over. And that should clear the way for publication in September, as I've been projecting since the last edits arrived. I'll let you know when the publisher gives me a timeline. For now, getting this draft out is a pleasant relief. I'm still enamored of the story and excited for the book to be released. It's still the same book; readers who've seen earlier drafts aren't likely to notice anything except that the read is smoother. And that makes me happier with this version than any one previous. - Mark