Ready… set… grow!

Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay
Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay

When I got my editorial review back from my content editor last fall, I read it through. Then I read it through several more times. And then I shelved the book.

Her review was mostly positive, but she had some requests for clarification and some suggestions for how to make the story better. And while I was absolutely willing to do what she suggested, it was still a little overwhelming. At the time I was physically in a rehab stage, and I did not feel I could lean into a project that required growth. I also felt that I needed to do some really deep processing before I could see my way to making major edits.

The last thing I wanted to do was rush the process, or try to get in there and start poking at my hard work without any real sense of direction. So it was several weeks before I scheduled my post-review consultation with her. Once I did, however—did I mention she’s really great to work with?—I walked away with renewed clarity. I set to work thinking, “I’ll just start here, with this thing, and see what happens…” and next thing I knew, it was all coming together. I even did another consultation with her, and she was thrilled with the way I was applying her feedback.

Part of the issue was that when I was originally cutting to try to make the story a more reasonable length, I cut too much. You don’t always know, especially on your first book, what parts are back story you wrote just to feel your way through, and what parts are actually necessary to help your reader find their way. So I was rewriting cut scenes and adding them back in, or sometimes even adding in new scenes. If I was going to bother to tell the story so thoroughly, I figured I should do just that. I even said to my editor at one point, “I’m not going to worry too much about how many words I’m adding back in. I’m just going to let the story be what it is.” Her response? “Yay!” She laughed over that, saying that even though it’s her job to tell me to write shorter, she loves my story and she applauds my attitude of just letting it be “big as a bathtub, and for soaking in.”

Then. Then I looked into the possibility of publishing it in paperback form on Amazon. Turns out they have a max print size of 828 pages. My story was not going to be publishable as it was. In fact, I was going to have to cut nearly 7% of it in order to make it printable.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to cut 6+% of 300,000+ words??? Especially when those words were well-written to begin with. It’s not like I was being super wordy or redundant or verbose or… like the sentence I just wrote, haha. My editor had confirmed this already.

So I had to really grow. I went through chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence, with falcon eyes. I learned to realize where I had said things twice. Where I had used two adjectives when one would do. And where I could just drop a phrase, or a sentence, or maybe even a short scene, because although it meant something to me at the time I wrote it, the reader wouldn’t know to miss it in the grand scheme of things. The occasional glance over my shoulder from my 19yo son was helpful, as his writing style is more spare than mine, but I wouldn’t give him free rein. I told him I had to learn to see it all mostly by myself.

I did it. I cut over 6%. I got it down to just under 828 pages (including front matter!).

Then I slapped it in a Kindle app. I don’t really like the Kindle app (shh, don’t tell Amazon). It’s functional, not pretty. There are ebook readers out there that are much easier on the eyes. But there are a LOT of readers out there who read on a Kindle device, so it’s a good idea to know how your text flows on a Kindle. And precisely because it is functional-but-not-pretty, it almost feels like reading someone else’s book. And that’s what I’m doing: reading it like it’s a finished product (which it aaaaaaalmost is!!!), just to make sure I didn’t do any overediting or make some stupid mistakes. (I did. At least a few.) Mostly, I found that the story works, really well, even without all the original words.

My editor will give it one more review in August, and by September it will be in its final form. No more changes, no more tweaking. Publishable on Amazon for those of you who really want a physical copy and not an ebook. (There are a lot of you. And honestly, I want to be able to hold it in my hands, too.) That will be a huge accomplishment. I’m glad I went through a feverish June to make that happen.

But I think, more than anything else, I will be glad that I didn’t rush it. That I took the time—between incorporating my editor’s suggestions and paring the word count back to what would tell the full story in a manageable space—to give it my absolute best. I’m reading it now, and I think, “This is a really good book. I would read this book!”

And that’s exactly the response I would want to have to the finished work. After all…

I wrote it for me.