Monday, March 7, 2011

Editing on Spec

As I've talked about a little before, my now-editor, Stacy, was first introduced to me via another manuscript and my blog. When I submitted what eventually became The Mapmaker and the Ghost, it was only about 28,000 words (125 pages in Word) and did not have a ghost anywhere in it.

I was very lucky that Stacy was able to see the spark of something in that early draft. She decided to do something which I think is rather unusual. She told my agent and me that the manuscript was not publishable as it was. For one thing, it was entirely too short. But she thought it had potential and was willing to try editing it on spec with me.

What this meant was that I received three pages of single-spaced notes from her. I didn't realize at the time that this was what is known as an edit letter, which is what you get from your editor once the manuscript has been accepted and you are working on revising it together. Since Stacy hadn't acquired my manuscript yet, she was doing the work of being my editor, but without the guarantee that she would eventually purchase the book.

I was aware that I was being afforded a pretty rare and huge opportunity and my mantra soon became something like, "Good God, Sarv, don't blow it." I worked pretty extensively on my revisions for about three months, adding around 60 pages, and a ghost, of course, amongst other things. I think I can honestly say that I'd never written anything with such a singular focus up until that point.

It took another four months for the offer to officially come through (the publishing world is not exactly known for its speed)—but, more importantly, it did eventually come through.

Since then I've had two more edit letters and written about 30 additional pages, including a completely different ending. It's become a little easier to understand and cope with the changes each time. For one thing, I know for a fact that the story is A LOT stronger than it ever was when it was just a lonely mapmaker sans ghost.

I'll always cherish that spec edit letter, my very first one, because it was the key that opened a mysterious, heavy door for me; one whose keyhole I'd been peeking through longingly for years.

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