Let Your MC Be Your Emcee

Wow. That was some entry, Michelle; reading it makes me wish Nancy Paulsen could help me write my entry/response today. I loved your Katherine Hepburn reference! I agree—in writers’ minds, editors sweep into rooms; others merely put one foot in front of the other.

Nancy’s notes didn’t make me cry, but I had to read them 92 times for everything to sink in. Emotion clouds the thinking, you know. And Nancy was very encouraging–so kind and gracious—giving me her phone number, telling me to call anytime. Seriously. All those times I had imagined what an editor may be like…Nancy is better. She even suggested I come to NYC to chat.

Reason told me that I should take her up on it. Business sense told me that I should go to New York—because part Lynda has all of the answers? Really???of the package of a writer is steely confidence, am I right? Well, it wasn’t a lack of confidence that held me back, but the fear that I had to have all the answers right away. That I should be able to read the notes and know just what to do about every change immediately—you know—like all other writers do.

For one thing, writing for an editor is a whole lot different than writing for myself or my writers’ group. For the first few days, every change that I considered for the story had to go through the “What does my editor want? filter,” which really messes with the story. Of course, the changes need to be organic to the story—feel like they weren’t dropped in. In the voice of the character. Obvious, am I right?

So that morphed into feelings that Michelle described so well. The feeling that the manuscript had to be perfect the first time around. The thought that Nancy would call Erin with reservations—and I don’t mean for dinner. I mean the magic invisible ink that Penguin used on those contracts.

It took me a few days and a chat with myself that went something like this: “Don’t be a dope. Nancy saw something in the story worth publishing! Revise this with your main character, Carley, on your shoulder and no one else. No. One. Else. Revise to what Nancy liked in the first place.”

What happened was…I pushed everyone out but Carley and the Murphys. I also had to accept, and then embrace, my own process—even though I wanted to ground it and take away its i-pod for a week. I wanted it to be quick and simple, but I’m an incubator. I needed to sit with her notes (which seemed more organic with every passing day). I needed to stare out the window, do my scribbling—work without working, so to speak.

I have since sent in my first round of revisions to Nancy and will meet her in NYC to discuss them next week. I am *so* excited—surreal to think of taking the train into New York, getting into a yellow cab, and saying, “Please take me to Penguin, 345 Hudson Street.” Man! This is what dreams are made of!

Writing a manuscript from the guts and being lucky enough to find both an agent and an editor who get the book, the characters, and what you were trying to say in writing it? That’s how the dream gets made.



Filed under Editing and Revising, Editor, Publishers and Editors, Writing, Writing and Life

19 responses to “Let Your MC Be Your Emcee

  1. Stumbled upon your blog through another blogger. Am loving it! Any picture book writers among you? (I host a monthly PB debut interview on my blog, WRITE WILD.) Have fun in NYC!!! So jealous…


    • Hey Christie,
      Like Lynda said, PBs are hard. And sweet. I wish my stories were sweet, but they turn dark so fast. No much call for betrayal and murder in the PB world, I’m afraid. Thanks for checking us out.

      And Lynda,
      The magic ink think killed me. I know the feeling. As for that trip the publisher: not to be forgotten. Hallowed ground. Enjoy every second.


  2. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Hi Christie! Thanks so much for stopping by. I have enjoyed spending some time on your website and blog and *love* your attitude–just the attitude that will get you published some day! Good luck!

    No, we don’t have any PB writers on this blog (although we will have guests that are PB writers). I’d love to write a PB some day–problem is, I’m not very good at it. They are a a lot harder to write than people think!


  3. Thanks for these wonderful posts, which I discovered because Jeannie Mobley and I are FB friends. I have a debut novel coming out in 2012, and I’m experiencing many of these same feelings–and I haven’t even even received my editorial comments yet. It helps to know I’m not alone in my insecurities! Thanks for the excellent advice about embracing your own process and keeping your MC on your shoulder. I also appreciated Michelle’s point about taking things a piece at a time. I used to tell my students that; strange how I forgot to apply it to myself.


    • Cynthia Levinson

      Welcome, Pam, and congratulations! Do continue commenting on our posts. It will be great for our readers (and us) to get lots of perspectives, and it sounds as if you’re on the same timeline as us!


    • Lynda Mullaly Hunt

      Hey, Pam! A big congrat’s to you! What is the title of your book? Is it also a MG?

      Yes, being part of a writers’ community is great, because you do find that your insecurities are similar to other writers. I think it’s easy to assume–locked up your office by yourself every day–that other don’t feel these things. But we do.


    • Hi Pam! I’m glad you found us here today! I am always excited to have a fellow Colorado writer get a book deal. We will have to connect at an SCBWI event sometime and compare debut deal notes!


  4. SuperReader

    Loved it!! Made me feel less bad about being nervous about my own writing! Thanks!!


  5. My revisions process has started out a little differently from what either of you have described. My first revision was based entirely on a phone call with my editor. That gave me some very general, broad guidelines (specifically, making two main characters younger, which involved altering the nature of their romantic involvement). So for me, the first revision WAS similar to working with a critique group, unlike your process, Lynda.

    It bore similarity to the processes you both describe in that it really did have the collaborative feeling, focused on making the manuscript better. My editor was not able to get me a revision letter by early December, but I had related to her that I would have five weeks to really work hard on it between semesters (as I am a college professor). The fact that she was willing to find this means of giving me feedback and allowing me to use my most productive time productively was very reassuring to me. And it means that I knew from the start that this would be a multi-stage process, with more than one revision taking place, so I didn’t have the shock that Michelle had about that.

    I was nervous about the phone call, but it really went well, and it gave me a chance to actually HEAR her enthusiasm for the project in her own voice, which was very reassuring as well. Just this week I sent the revised manuscript back to her, and am now awaiting the next round, which I think will follow much more of the pattern you both describe. I’m glad to have your models in front of me, so I am better prepared for that stage. I’m sure I will be reporting more on it when it comes!


  6. Cynthia Levinson

    There’s so much I like about your post, Lynda–“reservations,” “invisible ink,” “work without working” (which I quoted on FB). Your sense of humor, your excitement, and your resolve all come through and show how wonderful your book will be.


  7. Claire Mowbray Golding

    Lynda–Your post was terrific, and very helpful to all of us who can imagine being in your shoes. I can’t wait to hear how it goes in New York! (You may not remember me, but I was at Whispering Pines a few years ago, and we see each other at NESCBWI conferences from time to time.) Have a wonderful trip–I’m sure you will!–Claire


    • Lynda Mullaly Hunt

      Hi, Claire! Yes, of course, I remember you! How have you been? Thanks so much for taking the time to comment here–appreciate it. Yes, Monday will be a big day in NY; I’ll post on my private blog about it. So, are you going to Fitchburg this year?


  8. Marianne Knowles

    Just discovered this blog through Lynda’s post on the NESCBWI mailing list. Wow, this is fantastic! The range of stories everyone brings, the gut-level knowledge of what it means to write, revise, persevere, and survive the self-doubt, niggling fears, and other obstacles that go with the territory. Plus, it’s just so professionally done, from the entries to the layout to the planning that went into it. Bravo to everyone involved! Looking forward to reading more.


    • Thanks, Marianne, and welcome. I think the self doubt and niggling fears are there for every single writer I have ever met, and I’m glad we can all help each other through them!


    • Lynda Mullaly Hunt

      Thank you, Marianne! I think that all writers experience at least some of these feelings. However, I think it’s difficult to talk about it for some; I think writers sometimes feel that they are alone in their insecurities and, if they express doubt, that it somehow reflects negatively upon their writing ability. We are honest here. It helps us and we hope that it helps others! Cheers!


      • Marianne Knowles

        And it’s not just the doubts…issues of schedule, conflicting demands, multiple priorities, rejections, revisions, the infamous writer’s block–whatever it is, someone here has experienced it and is sharing it (and the good stuff too–yay!). There are other writing blogs that get into these issues, but this one is exceptionally well-done, encouraging, and it gets at the heart of the matter. Thank you again!


  9. Pingback: The Editor Letter and Revising—(A.K.A. Slaying the Self-Doubt Monster) « Lynda Mullaly Hunt

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