Hello Fierce Friends,
Bet you thought I had disappeared into the dark void called DEADLINE HELL. Well, you were right. That's exactly where I have been. The thing about writing a book and actually turning it into your publisher is that, well, that's not the end of it.
After 1 - 4 months, your editor calls and tells you everything that's wrong with it and everything you screwed up. Which is good, because no writer worth her salt wants a book to go to press in less than perfect condition, right? This is the time in the process where your editor can tell you what she didn't like about the details over which you have opened a vein nightly.
My editor always has great suggestions and observations, so when she sent me my rewrites, I eagerly read her thoughts. In this case, my editor felt that my characters needed tweaking. After thinking about it, I agreed. They needed a little slapping around by their Creator (me). No problem, I can handle this. And, oh yeah, she doesn’t like the ending. And the rewrites are due back in a week.
Now, let me pause to say that if I had a normal life, this might not be a problem. But I don't. My life is a roller coaster of fast-paced ups and downs, sparks and surprises, the likes of which you have never seen, usually punctuated by sudden crises on the level of a devastating volcanic eruption. So okay, one week.
After informing my editor that there is no way in Hades that I can change the ending in a week, I proceed to spend the next week doing the rewrites. I do not sleep. I do not eat. I do not watch All My Children or The Sarah Conner Chronicles. I write. I agonize. I change my book.
Okay, so the rewrites are finally done, with no loss of life or limb. I send them into my editor. Whew. That's done, right? Ah, not so fast grasshopper. You see, now I must wait with baited breath for the copyedits, which is when my original manuscript is mailed back to me with indescipherable little bits of code written all over the pages in blue or green pencil (as well as suggestions as to how I can make my writing better by implementing some of their word choices and italicized nouns).
I have two weeks to do the copy edits, which is more reasonable, if you have a normal life, which, as I indicated above, I do not. But I plow into it, determined to finish by the deadline. Now, let me pause here and explain that this is only the second book I have written for this publisher, and my previous publisher didn't supply copy edits. At that house, I got rewrites and that was it until the galleys arrived. So, as you can imagine, I was not, shall we say, knowledgeable about how to approach showing the changes in the pages of the manuscript. And unfortunately the MS didn't come back with a manual, just a brief note that said I "could" write on the pages of the manuscript. So I did.
I go without sleep. I go without food. I go without my daily soap. I go without The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Boston Legal, and Big Bang Theory. I am a good girl. 450 pages later, my writing hand is a pretzel, and the copy edits look like the aftermath of Sherman's March to the Sea. (Quick -- how many of you know this historical reference? Who was Sherman? Why did he march? Where was the sea? Why was the sea?) I'm almost finished, and the day before my manuscript is due, I get a call from my editor.
"Remember we talked about changing the ending?" she reminds me. Yeah, that was the change I couldn't do in a week, I remind her. Well, it's gotta be done. But the four days I'm given to REWRITE HALF MY BOOK is not enough time, for some reason that I can't explain.(Maybe it’s just me, I mean, go figure.)
So like any professional, I do what I must. I calmly, maturely, solemnly, call my agent and FREAK OUT!! After listening to my threats to hold the manuscript at gunpoint until I get more time, my agent (actually an angel on special assignment from Heaven) assures me she will help me. And she does, because, luckily for me, that's what she does. She helps me.
I get another week. And so the marathon begins. The new ending involves rewriting major plot points, which retroactively affects earlier parts of the book, and it is a grueling dissection. I feel very much like Dr. Frankenstein when he tried to stitch together different body parts and still end up with a living, breathing human being. Unfortunately, Dr. F ended up with a living, breathing monster, and as I worked all night, every night, (I did sleep a couple of hours a day) I began to fear that my creation would eventually end up being chased by villagers wielding pitchforks too.
Fortunately, this is not the case. Turns out my editor knew what she was talking about. The changes made the book better, stronger, snappier, sexier, and now with less carbs! Not that the woman at the mail stop would believe that. You see, I found out that I was supposed to "insert" major changes (changes of more than a page) into the actual manuscript. So my 450 page manuscript ended up being about 700 pages with all the changes. (Don’t worry – once they take out everything I crossed out, it’ll be back to 450.)
Quick now, for extra credit, does anyone out there know how much it costs to overnight Fed Ex a 10 pound manuscript to New York? In the immortal words of Danny Kaye in White Christmas, the price lies "Somewhere between 'Ouch' and 'BOING'"
As I slathered the outside of the box containing my precious manuscript with tape, the woman who worked at the mail place assured me that I didn't need to do that. She had placed one strip of tape across the top and one across the bottom, and that, she told me, would hold it "just fine".
I had the sudden mental image of my package being tossed between two husky Fed Ex guys and one of them fumbling the catch. The box hits the ground, bursts, (due to a lack of tape) and the pages of my manuscript are scattered across the floor of the Fed Ex receiving center in St. Louis, Missouri. The two guys are scrambling to pick up all the papers, when suddenly, the huge door at the end of the warehouse-like building begins to open. The two Fed Ex guys freeze as beams of sunlight shoot into their dark little piece of personal hell, and a tiny breath of air touches the edge of one paper. Then another. Then--whoops--it's a Midwest twister, whaddaya know, and it sweeps into the warehouse, picks up the pages of my manuscript (and the Fed Ex guys) and carries them out the doorway and into oblivion.
I turn back to the mail lady with a grim smile. "I'll feel better with a little more tape," I tell her. She smirks. I resist the urge to deck her. Instead, I concentrate on making sure the box containing my masterpiece is more secure than Mona Lisa in the Louvre. It's done. I breathe a sigh of relief, and then bite my lip as the smirky woman takes the package from me and tosses it into a bin where other, lesser taped boxes reside.
I walk out the door and blink. The sun is shining. There's a nice breeze. Not a twister in sight. My book is finished. I can live again. I go home. I begin to breathe, slow, deep breaths that fill my lungs. A tentative smile crosses my face. I open my laptop and check my email, just for fun, you know? Nothing pressing anymore. Oh, look, there's an email from my editor.
"Dear Tess," it reads. "Got the manuscript. Thanks so much. When will you have the next book finished?"
I stare at the computer. Slowly I log out of my email. I shut down my laptop. I close it. I pick up the remote control to the TV. I turn on my Tivo. 5 unwatched episodes of The Sarah Conner Chronicles. I click the remote. Sarah Conner is kicking some Terminator butt. I smile.
**If you would like to make Tess Mallory's Painful Journey Toward The Completion of HIGHLAND REBEL all worthwhile (she does it all for you!) help her become a best-selling author by pre-ordering her newest book at amazon.com **