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 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.