I’ve spent the last week restructuring a manuscript for a book after receiving some notes from my agent, Rachel Letofsky at The Cooke Agency.
Truth be told, this book—or at least the germ of it—has been percolating in one corner of my dusty mind for over a decade. It’s only been the last couple years or so, however, that I’ve been working on it intensively.
One of the things that I have enjoyed about working with Rachel is her editorial advice. She has demonstrated a key eye for finding weak or soft areas in a book and helping me improve them.
For this latest round, I took my usual approach to a round of editorial notes on a manuscript. I read through all the comments and suggestions—then produced pages of chicken-scratch response.
To be clear, these aren’t notes for my agent—I don’t expect anyone to possess the patience to read the above musings. They are simply meant to clarify things for me. And my brain works well with chicken-scratch notes in various notebooks or on scraps of paper. Oh, and with lots of doodles.
The end result of all these notes is that I realized I had to add at least one new important scene into the book, which meant taking my reader into a new room within the overall setting (a sort of station house). If you’re a writer, you know what that’s like. It’s like putting an addition on to your house. You have to figure out how big the room is, how to furnish it, and—especially important in a fantasy book—how to make it unique and interesting. Then, after making all those decisions, you have to then choose what to tell the reader and what not to, just to keep the plot moving along without bogging everything down in detail.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to invent new characters for this additional scene; I just had to plug in the ones already wandering around in my world. I know my characters so well at this point that I can just stick them in a location together and listen to them interact. It’s particularly helpful when the characters don’t exactly get along, and that is the case with this new chapter. But, just to keep things a bit more interesting, I stuck a fire-breathing bat in the corner.
Oh, and I also doodled him.
Further along the process, I realized one chapter had ballooned so much that I had to break it into two to further expand a scene in which my characters escape from an army of little beasties. I’m not sure if these two chapters will stay separate . . . but we shall see!
Alas, all of this work did not come without casualty. Sunday morning, before I was preparing to roll up my sleeves and cook for an army of people for Thanksgiving Dinner, I decided to work a bit more on my manuscript and ended up introducing my keyboard to my coffee. I cleaned up the spill quickly and avoided damage. At least, I thought I had, until this started happening as I typed:
I like unexpected turns in my writing . . . just not like this! Well, it was probably the universe telling me to take a break. I replaced the keyboard the next day and kept on going. Eventually, the new scenes were shuffled in and it was time to review the overall manuscript to see how it flowed. Along the way, there was a lot more pontificating—and doodling—in my notebook.
It’s funny how simple changes can have such a ripple effect on a manuscript. I noticed many tiny things that suddenly didn’t make sense. For example, the simple addition of a location in my setting, meant in a future scene my character was suddenly walking the wrong direction when I was trying to get him from one place to another. Those sorts of continuity errors are probably what stress me out the most.
Thankfully, this book isn’t near publication stage, so there is still plenty of time to catch those sorts of things. What I do hope I’ve accomplished with this most recent round of writing and editing is the big stuff—which is improving the plot and the emotional resonance of the characters.