Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Dirty Little Secret

"What we do not see, what most of us never suspect of existing, is the silent but irresistible power which comes to the rescue of those who fight on in the face of discouragement." ~Napoleon Hill

I was talking to a fellow writer in my local RWA chapter last night, and the topic of revising came up. Turns out she spent all of January rewriting a book for her publisher, Harlequin. Now, she's multi-published with them, so when I found out that her editor had asked her to rewrite nearly this whole story before they would accept it, I was shocked.

I mean, I sort of thought that once you've established your name with a major publisher, you can pretty much write the story you want and they'll take it.


She said the new story is a totally different book. It has the same first and last chapters as the original, but that's it. Then, once she sent that one in, she got the edits for another book she'd proposed. This one had fewer requests, but it had them in tricky one-liners, like "Don't let the secondary characters take over," "The hero and heroine are apart for 50 pages. Please address," and "Please take out X amount of scenes with the villain." Those aren't necessarily things you can fix in an hour or two.

And I said, "Wow, that's the dirty little secret about publishing that no one tells you when you're unpublished, huh?" You're led to believe that once you write a book, if a publisher/editor likes it, they'll take it, tweak some sentences here and there, and that's the end of the story. You don't realize that it might just be the beginning, and that you might be asked to substantially revise portions of the book -- even the portions you love and agonized over.

She said, "It's a good thing unpublished writers don't know that! If they knew it got harder instead of easier, they'd probably get so discouraged they'd stop trying altogether." Pause. "Then, of course, they wouldn't be any kind of competition for us, so maybe we should tell them..."

LOL. She's funny that way.

It's an interesting thing to realize, though -- you may be a terrific writer, you may be on the NY Times best-seller list, you may have an agent...but you may still have to do major revisions of a book before your editor will agree to contract it.

Don't be discouraged. Just be aware.


Devon Gray said...

Revisions-bleck! I was very lucky with my first two because I had very little in the way of editing. The fact they were novellas probably had a lot to do with this...less time to make mistakes in! The book I thought I was finally, finally, finally finished with has come back with even more revision suggestions from my cp's. Since an editor has the first three chapters of the book, I must go back and revise again in case she requests the full. Can I tell you how sick I am of writing this book?! LOL

Liz said...

I don't mind revisions because it means the book is done. Working from my blackberry -computer is shot.