What happens after a manuscript is bought by a publisher? Well, you pop a cork of bubbly and break the glass shade on your kitchen chandelier. But don’t worry, your advance will cover the repair. (That’s what I told my husband.)
I received an offer for my first picture book, THE MONSTORE, from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster in early May and accepted, after brief negotiations, shortly thereafter. By the end of June, my editor sent me the first round of edits, with the first revision due August 1st.
I opened the Word document and couldn’t believe all the RED.
Stuff was slashed. Crimson comment boxes asked me to change words…and entire passages. And most baffling of all, I thought my editor didn’t like my ending. I felt overwhelmed.
That’s when a good agent swoops in and saves you from having a toddler-like meltdown. A conference call was what I needed to understand the reasoning behind the red. The following week, my editor, editorial assistant and agent called and we ran through every detail. And, guess what? I didn’t feel so overwhelmed anymore. That’s what. (Sorry, there’s a little Junie B. Jones creeping in.) My editor had a great vision, and I agreed with every change she suggested. Big sigh of relief.
Then I had a month to make the changes.
I tried procrastinating. I played a lot of online Boggle. (My high score is 174.)
Honestly, I didn’t know how to tackle the revision—how I would solve the little problems that, at the time, seemed HUGE.
Then I remembered Anne LaMott’s BIRD BY BIRD. So that’s what I did. I took it bird by bird.
The first day I changed the manuscript from 1st person to 3rd. Send over the red button from Staples because that was easy.
The next day, I thought visually. My editor said some of the objects and actions in the manuscript, like a bag of moldy bread, and a monster slithering, wouldn’t come across well in illustrations. She asked me to think of details that were more visually interesting—things that would be humorous to draw, but also fun to read aloud. And, one of those things had to tie into the denouement.
My editor had paginated the manuscript, and she asked me to think of each page turn as a mini-cliffhanger. She did such a bang-up job on the pages, I didn’t need to do much there.
Then came the ending. Remember how I thought my editor didn’t like it? Well, she loved it. She just wanted me to stretch out the denouement. But how? I spent days staring at the screen. I’d come up with an idea, then erase it. And another. Delete. Then save. Then trash. This went on for a fortnight, until, by George, I think she’s got it! (I’ve always wanted to feel like Audrey Hepburn. That was my moment.)
I finished the first revision on June 27th, with enough time to email it to my agent for review before sending it to my editor just under the August 1st buzzer. My agent was thrilled, I was thrilled that my agent was thrilled, and let’s just say the word THRILLED ping-ponged between us that week.
My manuscript had gone from 522 words up to 730 to fit in the changes, but I thought that would be OK.
I was wrong.
The second round of edits arrived in early September. MORE RED. Cut, cut, cut! My editor liked the new denouement, but it was too wordy, bogging down the pace of the story. “This can be shown in illustration,” she said several times. I agreed. (And added those devilish art notes.) I slashed and burned, taking the manuscript down to 589 words.
So now it’s ready to ship out once again, way ahead of my November 1st deadline for the final manuscript.
But guess what? I think there will a lot more changes from now until then, but they’ll make the story even better. That’s what.