LTUE talk part 8

Continued from Part 7

(We’re getting near the end, don’t worry! This was only a one-hour talk.)

Now, we’re on to Tiffany’s second draft. With this particular draft, Tiffany focused on improving the initial buildup.

Wow, what a difference. The questions I asked sparked ideas in Tiffany I would never have thought to suggest.
The editor’s job isn’t to tell you what to put in the story. Her job is to ask questions that spark something from the writer’s own mind, bringing out the ideas the writer had in there all along. (Remind me to tell you later a story about Ursula Nordstrom and Maurice Sendak that won’t fit in this post.)
That’s where the collaboration hits the sweet spot, where ideas beget ideas begetting solutions.
So let’s look at a visual of how the first chapter changed from the first draft to the second draft (click on the thumbnail for the full pic):
I used Merge Documents in Word to show the changes from the first draft to the second. Everything in blue is something she deleted or moved to another place. Everything in red is an insertion (mostly out of her head, brand-new, though there are some insertions from other places).
blue = deletions
red = insertions
Isn’t that amazing? Those are some huge chunks of changes. Mostly from just a few questions that I asked, and the questions my questions led her to ask (there was quite an email flurry going on in the revision phase).
She even came up with great solutions to many character problems that had been individually frustrating, but when she came up with connections to give them, such as Father Joe becoming the history teacher, it all smoothed
This revision led to more questions on my part, especially questions that sprung from some of the cool stuff she came up with in this draft.
  • How can we give the first chapter a better hook?
  • Is the opening dream giving away too much?
  • Can we bring up a particular scene to give the first chapter a cliffhanger? How can we let readers know they’re in for a mysterious, magical thriller?
  • Insert a particular scene later where it can add to the mystery and build-up?
  • Tighten the new material to flow more smoothly?

 Then she turned in the next draft (just like the other thumbnails).

See how things changed drastically again? I am still constantly amazed at the creativity and spontaneity of ideas that comes out
just in response to a few questions—and not to mention the ideas niggling in the author’s mind all the while I have the manuscript for revision!
So the first chapter, especially, continues to evolve. She implemented some of my suggestions, and the chapter we have in the final version is very much like the one she came up with for this version.
For example, I asked Tiffany to bring up a particular scene, to establish the mystery, suspense, and magic of the story and give the first chapter a cliffhanger. Look at the result:

I love that last line, “If only I had the key, she thought. But she knew where it was–six feet under the soil of Alexandria, circling her mother’s wrotting wrist.”

A lot of the changes resulted from just a few key questions and suggestions. Really, Tiffany did all the work—I just had to ask the right questions.
That’s why drafti
ng is so important—being willing to go back again and again to a book, if necessary.

Still more questions!

  • Detail-level questions
  • Should the letters be in a particular order? How can these be used to best advantage?
  • What is the motivation for minor characters?
  • How might we give the reader better context? Dates?
  • Can we clarify who the Fey are? Distinctions?
  • Who is the anonymous character in the sewing circle scene? (give her a name)
Here’s a quick flip through the next couple drafts, showing how they changed, getting down to more details as the process progresses.

4th to 5th draft:

5th to 6th draft:

(The green is formatting changes.)

How did it change from first draft to last?

And that’s just the first bit, so you can imagine how the whole book changed over time.

That’s it, folks. The editor is here to help you mold the book to be the best it can be. The writer does all the writing work—but the questions the editor asks should aid that process to challenge you to go above and beyond what your first draft was.
With a standalone, the editor will
see your manuscript at a much more polished state than what you saw here, due to the time constraints of series publishing.
But the principle is the same. The editor is there to be a partner in making your book into the best book you can write. Making a good book great, through collaboration.
I have one last relationship cliche for you.
There are no happy ever afters—even married folk have to do the dishes, take out the trash, and all those mundane things (keep your day job)
Just because you’re published doesn’t mean your work is over. You have to promote your book too.
  • Go to conferences
  • Do local promotion—library, school visits, actively talking to booksellers before the book comes out and let them know you’re a local author, be willing to do what it takes to get out there and promote your book
  • Keep a blog or LJ.
  • HAVE A WEBSITE—and make it as good and informative as you can make it
  • network with other writers—sense of community, and gets the word out to other book-loving people

3Cp>And keep writing! Make your second book and your third book even better than your first. Tiffany has already written book 2 and is now working on writing book 3 and revising book 2.

Oh, I lied. That’s something they didn’t hear in the presentation! …because I have been thinking about it ever since.

There are happy ever afters, too.

Because when you’re doing what you love, that is a happy ever after, despite–and because of–all the work you continue to do. 

Thanks for listening. Hope this has been helpful. Any questions? (Really, I mean it. Ask your questions and I can address them in a later post.)