For the last month I have spent every free minute editing/cutting/reordering/slicing-dicing and changing my manuscript. It’s been an experience.
After surviving Shakespeare (which I did, feeling very good about the hilarious interpreting) I received the notes from my agent, Jessica Regel, on her suggested changes for The Third Freak. She explained there were quite a few more than she’d originally thought. So at first when I read through them, I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. I said, “Why can’t I just get it right the first time?”
However, once I started reworking the beginning of my manuscript, I realized Jessica was right. The first few chapters needed to be reorganized so that events fell in order instead of depending on a flashback. I even wrote a new chapter for transition, and that was fun. Jessica had a lot of other points that were applicable, too, though she was nice about saying if there was something I felt strongly about not changing, I should tell her.
The other major changes were at the end of the book. That was the hardest part to alter, as I had an emotional attachment to a chapter that I finally ended up cutting almost entirely; it was the one I wrote halfway through the manuscript and would go back and tearfully read. Still, I understood Jessica’s points and now that I’ve finished it, I realize this new ending makes a stronger finish and therefore Freak becomes a more marketable book.
Two days ago I completed all the changes, experiencing a sort of euphoria; not exactly like running a marathon, but it felt almost as difficult. Cutting the parts of my writing that I felt were beautiful, and which I now know will never see print, left me a little sad. (I actually had to do that chapter’s deconstruction in stages over two days, continuing to steadily delete until it finally went away.) However, I DO know that all of this, and the other tweaking she’ll have me do until it’s right, is just making my manuscript ready for editors, and hopefully for publication.
I could have refused to make the changes Jessica suggested and left my well-loved manuscript intact—and on the shelf. Or, I could be a truly skilled author and edit my work. Being able to make changes, delete scenes, write new ones, and cut my writing is the other half of being a successful author. It’s like a figure skater who can not only deliver the artistic program but also do the athletic jumps… the musician who performs on stage but behind the scenes composes and arranges her music. My point is obvious: being a skilled writer takes more than coming up with a clever plot and penning fluid prose. It takes some surgical skill, a willingness to wield a scalpel, and the confidence to stitch it all back together again so it can be stronger.