About six months ago, a friend and fellow blogger reached out to see if I’d be interested in sending a copy of my second novel to her publisher. Basket Baby was being edited by friends and I’d forgone any plan of marketing it in a traditional way. I’d spent three years with Under the Same Moon chasing my tail with agents and publishers and Oprah. Why bother this time around?
Still, I jumped at the chance. A real publisher who was willing to take a look at my book? Why not?
When I sent them my first chapter, they liked it and asked for more. I celebrated by moving sections of books around in the Ds at the local bookstore to make ample space. I even went to an event this publisher organized locally and (oh so foolishly) told the man behind the bookseller’s counter, “I think they are going to publish me too! Can you believe that!”
For what it is worth, I said it in a whisper, as if I couldn’t believe it either.
Fast forward to August 28th when the email arrived, along with their edits. They may or may not have used the word “cliche.” It may or may not have taken me three weeks to finally open their edits because my heart hurt so very much.
That’s the thing about writing and art. Everything you produce is personal and it is difficult to hand it off for critique. As someone who is regularly told “why are you taking XYZ so personally?!” I took the word “cliche” like a, to use a cliche, punch to the gut.
I finally worked up my nerve to open the edits. Inside, tidily wrapped in a lengthy series of comments, was one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received. This publisher, who may or may not ever make a penny from this book, took quite a long time to read this novel and to provide line by line thoughts on what worked and what doesn’t — including my love for both em dashes and exclamation points.
I couldn’t have afforded a better professional editor, and they did so as a kind courtesy. They did this to advance my skills, hold my hand and help me be a better writer. When I finally sucked it up enough to read their thoughts, I nearly cried again at my foolishness for having waited three whole weeks to simply open the document.
Yes, there is work to be done. And, surprisingly, yes — I am excited to make their changes. There are cliches, grammar mistakes and a few areas where, yes, I concede. I used way too many exclamation points. But there are also areas they loved, where my grasp for novel writing has strengthened in the last ten years.
Back to the editing I go. With any luck, this novel will be my best yet.