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25,000 manuscript edits in a single image

I made around 25,000 revisions to the manuscript for ‘Rum Luck’, from when I first queried agents to when I sold to a publisher a year and a half later.

Here’s what that looks like when crammed into a single image:

Merged Changes

(Thanks go to Amy McCullogh and Will Hill for first doing this with the edits they got back from their respective publishers.)

I almost didn’t post this.

It’s tough to be a writer who is sitting on a manuscript that hasn’t yet found a home. No one needs to make that time any more difficult that it is already. And there’s no doubt – that’s a lot of changes. A veritable sea of red. Quite possibly a very daunting sea, depending on where you’re at in the writing process.

Don’t be discouraged.

When that manuscript first left my hands, it was perfect in my eyes. But only in my eyes. It needed more.

That red is the ‘more’, those elusive improvements that could only come through outside feedback – in my case, the beta-readers, prospective agents, my former agent, a professional editor, potential publishers, and eventually the editors at Five Star – including the eminent Deni Dietz.

Over a year of editing.

I didn’t listen to everyone, all of the time. But I did look for trends. If several readers made the same suggestion, I took it very seriously. And even when one reader said there was too much description and another not enough, I asked myself – is there a problem with the description?

And by slogging it out – getting rejections, making changes, and repeat – I was able to get the feedback needed to bring ‘Rum Luck’ to where it needed to be. And get shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis award. And then get a book deal.

Aspiring authors – don’t worry if you think your book isn’t quite ready for prime time. You may just need to ask your beta-readers for a map to help navigate that sea of red.

Update: I’ve had some feedback to the effect of ‘OMG is that even the same book?’ – the answer, surprisingly, is ‘yes’. This is pretty much the exact same story as what I started with. I mostly streamlined the descriptions and removed a lot of unnecessary scene direction – character’s shooting each other looks every three lines, or spending half the book drumming their fingers on something. I also took out a lengthy flashback and added another day to the timeline. The dialogue, however, has remained virtually unchanged.

I used to live in fear of re-writes – I’d think, “I need to make sure this is perfect, or I’ll lose it all during the edits” – but the truth is that if it’s gold, you’ll find a way to use it. And if it’s not gold, you won’t miss it when it’s gone.

Rum Luck is coming out from Five Star Publications in February 2016. To stay in touch, join my mailing list (sidebar) or ‘like’ my facebook page.

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