Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bloodied and Blind

It’s rewrite time!


Sammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack returned to my doorstep this week with a two and a half page letter from Nancy attached.

I once received a 15 page editorial letter from Nancy. (That was for Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary when I had a full time job teaching, my kids were tiny, and I was seriously frayed from trying to keep it all together.) So I know—a two-and-a-half page editorial letter isn’t bad.

Besides, I don’t read the letter right away.

It’s full of work, and I know it.

Instead, I go straight to the manuscript and flip through it page by page, ignoring all the little red marks that do not say HA! or NICE! or GREAT!

I live from HA! to HA! if you must know. It’s what keeps me going through the daunting process of analyzing three hundred pages of edits, especially after spending the past six months re-writing the same manuscript into what I hoped was a state of perfection.

Well, near perfection, anyway.

But now here it is, back on my desk, bloodied.

Actually. the pencil she used may be red, but it’s a faint red. I’m not sure if her glasses have gotten stronger of if I just need a pair myself, but some places the writing is so small and faint that I can’t help but wonder if she was on her bed, recovering from a nasty flu, or perhaps a migraine that stress from tardy manuscripts has been known to trigger.

Regardless, I don’t want to read the faint stuff at first anyway, so at this stage I’m perfectly fine with not being able to see it. I focus on only the HAs and NICEs and GREATs in their glorious swoopy red circles so I can gather into my psyche the strength needed to lift a magnifying glass and face all the scribbled suggestions.

But after I’ve soaked in all the good stuff, I still don’t read the letter.

I boycott it.

I'm not yet ready to face what’s wrong with what I’ve written.

So I shove the letter along with the manuscript inside a desk drawer and let the good stuff settle in for a day or two.

It needs time to get securely attached.

Really, it does.

And then, finally, when the good stuff is settled and secure (and can claim squatter’s rights on my emotional state), I pull open the drawer and face the work.

First I read the letter.

Then I let out a big sigh of relief.

Not so bad.

Then I re-read the letter, this time making notes about broad-picture corrections and needed additions (or adjustments in tone).

Then I take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves, and start on page one of the manuscript, grateful that I’ve got an editor who is still willing to show such attention to detail and give me such astute feedback—even on the 15th book in a series.


Anonymous said...

It's a good thing the letter was not too bad.I think that i would read the book even if it had misspelled words and sentences that don't even make sense.Although,it might be confusing to wrap my head around,i still would.
Great post and good luck with perfecting the book (I know you will anyways)!


P.S first commenter!!

Alexa said...

A writer's work is never done. i can go over what i write so many times and each time i can find something to change!

Izze said...


When you write, do you type everything up to a file?

So when you get the bloody mess of a manuscript back, can you just go to a file and change all the stuff that needs to be changed?

You don't have to rewrite everything again, do you?

Typing this, it seems like a dumb question, now.

I'll just... Go drink a root beer or something.

N3WYORKD3VIL said...

Ah well. It should probably take a while to make a Sammy Keyes book as funny and suspensful as the book before. Writing and then reading what I wrote drives me up the wall. "WHAT! WHY WAS I SO MUSHY IN THIS PART! Noooo..." And then I'm usually too late to fix it. :/

Michael said...

Sigh. I know the feeling. Writing is a joy. Editing is a curse. But thankfully that curse makes our writing worth reading.

Norma said...

Wow, it take so much to get everything finalized into one book, but we really appreciate your continued dedication to the books. It's so awesome to hear that the Sammy series is still going strong. :)

Optimistic4ever said...

I write fanfiction (on SK) and so I get how annoying editing can be. My problem is, I cannot post anything unedited. Even this comment. Seriously, I've gone through it twice to check for grammar mistakes. I found two and only fixed one because the other didn't matter.

bookworm said...

I'm super happy just thinking about the SK series, but it's agonizing having to wait until September whn SK14 comes out. (sigh)

I once read a quote in a book (in the Anne of Green Gables series) to never write something you would be ashamed to read at your own funeral. Since having read that, I take that to heart w/ all of my writing. But when it comes to writing a comment on a blog, my inner laziness tends to poke out. Oh well. :D

All the luck and swiftness for editing SK15, Wendelin!!! We're cheering you on!!!!!!!!!!!!

g said...

cool cool :)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

abagayle: I would be so embarrassed! My son always finds mistakes in my books and it drives me nuts! How can that beeeeeeee!?? There was a Matt and Mike mix-up in the first printing of Flipped. And I only caught it because I listened to the audio on a long drive. I said, Whoa, wait, what? ANd sure enough, it was wrong. Those names are easy to mix up (as Bryce would tell you!), but still!

Alexa: Exactly. Which is why I find it hard to read my own books!

Izze: Never be afraid to ask me questions about this. Answer(s): I type my manuscript and would not be an author if I had to do it long hand. But the edited manuscript is a physical (paper) copy with marks on the (double-spaced)text and in the (one inch) margins. So yes, at that point I work with paper. But then I go back to my file and make the changes on the computer and work from that. So even though the process is time-consuming, it's a breeze next to what it would be like to retype the entire manuscript like they used to do in the old days.

NYAngel: Yup. There's something to be said for letting it sit for a few days before turning it in. We've all been there!

Michael: What you said! :-)

Norma: Thanks :-)

O4Ever: Did you know there were three mistakes in your comment? Kidding! When this is all done (the series) I'm going to read all your fan fiction--promise! Looking forward to it!

Bookworm: Wow, I'd have trouble writing if I thought about people reading my work at my funeral. Out of context I could look really mean! Think about Mrs. Wedgewood, a whale of a blackmailer! I've (I mean Sammy has) called her the World's Biggest Wedgie! The Wiggy Walrus! Let's hope I don't die ever, ever, ever...or maybe that people will read other more restrained passages at my funeral.

ginngel11: Thanks, thanks!

Bye for now!