Wednesday, 2 December 2015

When Your Manuscript Just Really Isn't That Good

At the end of October I turned in my second book. This book was a tough write, for many reasons, and even as I hit send I knew that it still needed work. Fortunately (for me, maybe not so much for them) I have the world's most amazing publishing team on my side.

So while they got the fun job of reading my 100,000 not-quite-there-yet words, I had a fabulous time reacquainting myself with my husband and children, friends, overloaded to-be-read shelves and catching up TV programmes. Then came the developmental edits. These are basically where your editor tells you everything that is wrong/weak with your story and you get to work out how to fix it.

My (amazing) editor is a sandwich compliment guru. She opens by saying nice things, she closes by saying nice things, and then for the seven pages in between she manages to pull apart my entire book and make me feel okay about it while she does.

No matter which way I looked at it these were  BIG edits. Some of which were self-inflicted because of a brain that doesn't seem to like plotting which means I am generally working out my story as I'm writing it (I do not recommend this as a stress free writing strategy if you're on a deadline), some were because with ten months to go from nothing to completed manuscript I hadn't had the luxury of my usual two months pre-think time where I just mull things before I start writing, some were because I'd flat out underestimated the time required to research some of the aspects that I knew nothing about and others because of changes beyond me (like it's release date changing that means we're doing some rewrites to better fit with the season it's being released into).

Here's the honest truth. I love these characters but I have lived with them for the last ten months. Large scale developmental edits are kind of like having house guests stay for a loooong time, finally move out, then return with some friends.

As I mulled my editor's notes I was struck by two clear choices. I could stick to my guns, keep what was pretty much there in terms of plot and characters, but fix it up, strengthen the obviously weak parts, and it would be a perfectly okay book. It would take a lot of work, but it would be doable.

But the truth was that if what I wanted was for this to be a great book then tinkering around the edges, making some small and medium sized changes, wasn't going to cut it. A great book was going to require pulling the whole thing apart and rebuilding it from the ground up. In six weeks. Over my family's Christmas holidays.

Sometimes the dream is amazing. It's getting giddy over endorsements from your favourite authors, the first glimpse of your name on a book cover, and seeing first reviews come in. And sometimes it's knowing that it's time to put on your big girl pants, take all the photos down off your dining room wall, and (with the help of the world's cutest assistant) replotting your entire book using post-its :)




Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand. It will be an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac

17 comments:

  1. Great post Kara. Good on you for putting on those 'big girl pants' and deciding to make your book the best it can be. It won't be easy, but the product will be well worth the effort. Good luck with it. And the synopsis of your first book sounds really intriguing too.

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    1. Thanks, Nola! I'm going to need luck and a whole lot of divine help :)

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  2. Kara, I think you're amazing, even getting that second book written at all, with such little 'helpers' around. We often mind our grand kids and I can't even find my brain when they are here! Love your image of your characters being house guests who then move back in during that re-writing stage, along with extra friends! All the best with sorting this second novel out.

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  3. Awesome post! Love so much how you want to do the hard yards to make the book the best it can be. :) It's great reading part of your journey on here too. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing, Kara. Great advice and great encouragement to all of us who write. Admitting the struggles of the process help us all.

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    1. Thanks, Carol :) I always find it encouraging when other writers admit they don't have it as together as it may look!

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  5. Great post, Kara! One of the things I admire about you is that you're so honest about your writing process. And that you let us in on all the real work that goes behind putting together a story. I KNOW you'll rock those revisions...in 6 weeks...over the holidays! ;-)

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    1. Thanks for coming to visit, Preslaysa. And huge congrats on your amazing contest year!

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  6. Really encouraging! Thanks for sharing the struggle!

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    1. Thanks, Jebraun! Always happy to share the struggle :)

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  7. Kara, great work. (And your little assistant) I trust your "guests" play nice for this extra visit and bring you some lovely Christmas presents and there isn't too much jostling amongst them for more time on the page. 2016 is going to be such a great year for you, Kara, and be assured of all our support from across the ditch.

    BTW, what do the different colours represent?

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    1. Hi Ian. Thanks so much! The pink are scenes that will probably be cut, bluey green need medium rewrites, orange big rewrites, yellow need to be in a specific month because it's linked to "real world" events, and pinky peach in the bottom right are new scene ideas :)

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  8. A lesson learned through the experience, to be sure, as it is true: You want to send readers the best story you're capable of providing.

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  9. Thanks for your honesty. Allows me to know I'm not the only one in the boat. And love the 'big girl pants' line!

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  10. Writing ain't for sissies, right?!? Thanks for being so candid. There's a meme I particularly like which says: 'Writing a first draft is like pushing a peanut across the floor with your nose.' And after all that come the edits!

    I can't wait to read your books.

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