Ok, so we all agree that your book will soon get published. You know it’s good. Everyone in your writing group knows it’s good. We can safely predict that it will be acquired by a major publishing house within the next year. Then what? Well, obviously you’ll consume several bottles of champagne. You’ll dance around your house. You’ll dance around your neighborhood, your entire city. You’ll dance to the moon and back.
Well, at that point, you’ll climb on a raft with your editor and sail down a long winding river called Revisions. What is that journey like? It’s never the same for any two writers but you can be certain it will be an adventure just as exciting as the one your protagonist is going on in your book.
I’d like to share some experiences that I had with my editor after I sold ‘You Can’t Have My Planet But Take My Brother, Please’. I had two editors, one in New York, the head honcho, and another they kept sequestered in Maine, far from the hustle and bustle of the big city. I worked mostly with the one in Maine. The head honcho in NY was always kept in the loop and gave invaluable input throughout the process. But it was the lady in Maine I sailed down the river with.
In my book it turns out that we humans are merely renting Earth. We’re about to get evicted because we’re such lousy tenants. A boy named Giles must embark on a quest with three of his friends to prove that we humans are capable of stewarding the planet.
I came to writing a MG novel from having worked on an adult novel. In some respects, this was not to my advantage. In my editor’s opinion, some of the subplots felt too literary. They weren’t kid friendly enough. I had the voice down. That wasn’t the problem. But the plot needed work.
I spent four months revising the story. I sent it to her. She sent back three pages of notes. In her opinion, I had made great progress. Now it was time to do some fine-tuning.
She wanted me to make the aliens more original. We’ve seen aliens before in hundreds of movies and dozens of books. I needed a fresh take on the intergalactic. I spent the next two months working on it. I added robots that can turn paper back into trees. I added a spaceship that runs on rhyming and lots of other stuff. I sent the new draft to my editor. She came back to me with more notes, now focusing on sentence structure, word choice, tiny things that make a big difference. She always gave me the option of ignoring one of her suggestions if it didn’t make sense to me.
Around this time, she casually mentioned in one of our many phone conversations that she was the editor of the Hunger Games. That blew my mind. I’m glad I didn’t know this from the start because I never would’ve had the audacity to tell her I wasn’t changing something she had a problem with.
After many months, our journey down the river of Revisions finally came to an end. We landed on the shore of publication and were both delighted, not only with the journey, but also the finished product. I couldn’t have done it without her!