A light-bulb moment . . .
“Often, a suggestion by the editor is a light-bulb moment, when you suddenly realise what’s wrong with the book. A light-bulb moment is a wonderful thing and even if the publisher later turns you down, you will have improved your book.
Essentially, behind all these rejection letters is one message: you got it wrong. Sometimes you were just unlucky. But most often, it’s simple: your writing is not (yet?) right.” http://helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com
These are the words I read in the above mentioned blog today. And the words in themselves were a light-bulb moment. I finished a novel, The Millefiore Paperweights about a year or so ago. Keen to get feedback, I sent it to a highly reputable London consultancy for an In Depth Report. The report came back and was quite laudatory but not so much that I should think I had a best seller on my hands. Work to be done. No ego allowed here! Did it and sent it off again for a General Report. That one came back and was even better, said all the things I hoped, including mentioning that it was indeed commercially viable and to my absolute delight, was ‘Dunnett-esque’. (You see Dorothy Dunnett is my all time favourite novelist, and this despite the fact that I am a fantasy writer.)
Anyway, back to the report . . . there was a ‘but’. (There’s always a but). Finnian (Richard Armitage) needed to be darker and yet again darker, and yet not so dark that the reader would lose all interest, affection and sympathy for him. If I could accomplish what the report asked, the consultancy would be interested in reading the first 50 pages with a view to selling me on. (They are scouts, you see) Okay, says I, and nutted down to prep the first 50 pages. (and then the rest, because what’s the point of a pretty first 50 if you can’t follow up with the goods!)
Sent that off and received an email last week which briefly said remove most of the backstory, the ‘hads’ etc. and the pace will sharpen and then we shall review the first 50 again.
Two light-bulbs flashed. One was that the consultancy must surely find something of potential to keep working with me, especially as no money is changing hands and hasn’t done since the General Report was commissioned. That thought then encouraged me not to lose heart and to read carefully what they were asking and that’s when the second light-bulb positively lit the universe.
I began to copy and paste, removing backstory, bringing mid-chapters to the front of chapters, changing the ‘hads’ (big fault of mine . . . I will often say she had been, rather than the simpler she was in the context of slight backstory) which apparently distanced the reader. Suddenly the work began to gain pace, my characters were infused with tension and I really was excited!
I am at the point now where I have sent it to two highly critical readers in the States and one just as critical writer in Sydney. When they have reported back, I shall make any changes necessary (I do have authorial control, I am told) and then send it back to London for the final (and it will be so very final, I think) opinion as to whether they want to sell me on or not. It’s exhausting, long-winded, sometimes disillusioning. But then no book was ever perfect from the start . . . was it? Please don’t tell me there was ever an author who required no editorial assistance.
In the meantime, I try to push on with The Shifu Cloth, which in amongst marketing The Stumpwork Robe and The Last Stitch
and constantly re-drafting Paperweights (which they think might be better as A Thousand Glass Flowers) is hardly ever advancing beyond 60,000 words. Every time I go back to it, I have to read it from ‘Go’ to get into the essence of it. But that’s the life of a writer I suppose. Nobody ever said, the light (bulb) would be on all the time!