I’ve kept it under my hat for a month, wanting to wait till there was something definite to say, but it’s time. People have been asking me about the book, and I’m ready now to talk about the reason for my delay.
In September, I made arrangements with R.J. Cavender from The Editorial Department to annotate my manuscript of Ma Chère Antoinne. Yesterday, I got them back from him, and I don’t think I’ve ever made such a great investment in myself.
Annotation, for those of you who don’t know, consists of notes that are made throughout the document. I’m notorious for annotating my books at home (though never library books, I swear), and it’s the same technique I use when grading papers in my composition classes. Some of the notes are corrections or suggestions while others are reactions to the text. It’s a way of interacting between reader and writer–a conversation.
I think if I hadn’t had the experience of giving just these kinds of notes to others, I’d have felt very defensive and frightened at the prospect of reading through 265 pages of someone else’s commentary on my work. But setting ego aside and seeing the annotations as a conversation rather than a threat makes a potentially anxiety-ridden situation into a learning experience that can be transformative.
Having the right editor makes all the difference. That sounds obvious, but it truly isn’t.
I’ve seen “editors” who simply marked sentence level issues but who never really appeared to engage with the text. That’s not editing. That’s proofreading. I’ve also seen “editors” who try to force a writer to give up his/her own voice in order to make the content fit their own desires. That’s not editing either. That’s rewriting.
Good editing, just like good teaching, engages in a conversation with the writer, reacting to what is working right as well as to what isn’t.
The best situation is when an editor’s sensibilities match those of the writer. They just “get” it. They understand the writer’s intent and help hone the text to achieve that goal.
That’s exactly how I feel as I’m studying the notes. I couldn’t be happier with the work R.J. did for me, and I can’t thank him enough for his attention to detail. I’m only just starting Chapter 6, and I can already see how much cleaner, tighter, and better the text has become. Not only that, but I’m starting to internalize the lessons I’m gleaning from his notes, and that is a gift I will carry with me always.
All this means that Book 2 is on hold while I complete my changes. But after learning what R.J. has to say, I’m confident that Book 1 is going to be vastly improved, and the things I’m learning will carry over into the rest of the series.
By nature, I want what I want when I want it, and I have a hard time waiting patiently for the things I’ve set my mind on. I’m most impatient with myself. It’s easy for me to become annoyed with myself for not being able to complete a project as quickly as I’d like. However, when it comes to my writing, I remind myself that the wait will be worth it, both for me and for those who will read it.
Writing a book is like deciding to run a marathon. It’s not something you can just wake up one morning and do. It takes training, time, planning, dedication, and a willingness to accept that natural talent on it’s own isn’t going to get you to the finish line. It means getting up every morning, even on the days when you don’t feel like it, all with the belief that the achievement will make any short-term hardship fade in time.
Writing a series is like running a series of marathons back to back. That is what I’ve taken on.
So please be patient with me. I’m running as fast as I can. And I promise to make it worth the wait.