"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

SOLSTICE: When your Agent is your Editor

Since it's hot as blazes here in Austin, I'm feeling all SOLSTICE-like. Maybe Global Warming really is killing the earth. Anyway, we're not going to debate that now. But in the spirit of SOLSTICE and hot weather, I'll be reposting some of my favorite guest blogs that I've written over the last couple months.


When your Agent is your Editor

The life-cycle of revisions has an evolution just like everything in the publishing world. An author writes a perfect story, and then it gets ripped apart and reordered on its path to publication. Traditionally, the story is revised with the help of the author, a critique group, and an agent, and then the story is passed on to an editor. At that point, the author and an editor work together to get the manuscript to a state perfect for publication. So what happens to the process when the editor no longer comes into the picture? How does the manuscript reach that final level of edits that brings it to publication level? And even more importantly, does this final level matter?

I’m thrilled to be represented by Laura Rennert who happens to be a rock star agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura and I first met at the Big Sur workshop three years back, and we signed shortly thereafter. Aside from having her finger on the pulse of publishing, Laura is a fantastic editorial agent. With SOLSTICE we worked through a minimum of six rounds of revisions. Yikes! At times, this felt like revision hell, and okay, it was revision hell, but now, in hindsight, I see so many improvements in all aspects of the manuscript: the romance, the character development, the world building, the dialogue. But perhaps what changed the most was the dystopic element of SOLSTICE. It morphed into an entity I never imagined.

When I first wrote SOLSTICE, the global warming crisis was more of an aside. Piper, the main character, lives in a world at least eighteen years in our future where global warming is destroying Earth. This was fine through many rounds of revisions, but when I started exploring this angle more, tons of possibilities surfaced. The best thing is that I adored this angle, and I took it and ran. But without my agent’s feedback, I may never have delved into this potential.

Because she is thorough (and awesome), my agent also works with a reader (also awesome) who gives amazing and objective feedback. For SOLSTICE, between Laura and her reader, my story evolved generations beyond the first draft. But it didn’t stop there. Once revisions were completed, SOLSTICE went through line edits, copyediting, proofreading, and then one more round of copyediting. I thought at times the editing would never stop.

Does feedback hurt? Sure. Did I get some of those revision letters and cry to my writing group until I’d purged negative thoughts from my mind? Totally. (Okay, we laughed some, too; I admit it. But sometimes the revision notes were just funny.) Does this level of quality matter for an ebook? Definitely! Ebooks are so easy to buy, and lots of authors now are recognizing their popularity. As the author of a digital book, I feel like it’s my duty to make sure my work is top quality no matter what the format. And in the end, I have a story I’m super proud to share with the world.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing the process of working with your agent on this. It's so interesting how she was like your editor.

I'm reading SOLSTICE now and loving it.

J.L. Campbell said...

I'm a firm believer that each set of eyes brings something new/different to a manuscript.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Natalie, for reading! I hope you like it. It's very different from THE EMERALD TABLET :)

Totally agree, J. L. I love getting that fresh set of eyes!

Miriam Forster said...

I laughed when I read this because I kept thinking "All my books are AWFUL when I first write them."

Seriously. Awful.

I love what you said about quality being important for ebooks too. If there's anything that can lessen the stigma of this kind of publishing, it's a commitment to excellence and a team perspective. Awesome post!

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Miriam! But I hardly believe your books were awful :)