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