“Every time you post a status update, it says you’re editing,” a friend on Facebook recently joked with me.
She’s right. At the same time Women of Faith announced I won their 2012 writing contest last March, my literary agent was negotiating a traditional publishing contract with David C. Cook. Since then, life has been a bowl of cherries.
And I couldn’t be more grateful.
To be honest, the editing process (which is finally winding down) has been the most difficult work my brain has ever done. Not awful, just difficult. I like to relate the process to a concert band. Initially, the instruments struggle to be in tune, find the tune and carry the tune. The conductor reprimands the trumpets for playing too loudly. He sends the woodwinds to another room to figure out how to make their part blend in better, and the drums are so far off score, they seem hopeless. But in the end the music comes together and lifts the applauding audience to their feet. It is the same with editing a novel in preparation for publication.
I thought I had a pretty good start, and I did – sort of. Then I had my first conversation with my editor (a very young, brilliant and cosmopolitan New Yorker) and learned the truth: my manuscript stank (stunk? Stinks!). It would require a near complete rewrite.
This isn’t to say my editor changed my art, my song, my passion. Far from it – under her skillful tutelage, she helped me give my novel wings. She helped me find the out-of-tune places and create harmony. She urged me to more fully develop plot lines and characters. Now, little–by-little, the manuscript is morphing into the seamless, beautiful work I didn’t even know it could be.
In addition to the joy of an expert breathing essence into my work, the best thing of all is that my editor told me I must go deeper. I was instructed to dig into the messy center of my themes, and to round out flat characters with unexpected variations, nuances and flair.
As writers, especially those of us who choose to write about tough themes, we need permission to go to such places. Permission to pen that which makes us – and our characters – feel the stinging rawness of agony and truth (without using adverbs). I know this encouragement has been a turning point in not only my editing, but in the heart of my art and my writing.
So, since last March, everything, but at the same time, nothing has changed. My status updates will continue to say, ad nauseum, “I’m editing.” I’m not sure the editing process ever ends. There’s always more honing, feeling and craft we can add to even our most polished work.
This Southern literary, coming-of-age novel, as yet untitled, is slated for publication by David C. Cook in late 2013 or early 2014. A second novel will follow at a yet undetermined time. Stay tuned for updates, insider information, and sneak previews throughout the year at my website.
Words of advice: never expect to be finished.
And as I said in my video last October, never, never, never give up.
Amy graduated from DePauw University with a degree in nursing, with a strong emphasis in journalism and creative writing, too. She is the 2011 winner of the Women of Faith Writing Contest. Upon winning the contest, she was picked up by David C. Cook.
You could be this year’s Women of Faith Writing Contest winner; there is still time for you to enter. Your manuscript must be a minimum of 10,000 words and submitted in one single document. The deadline for you to submit your manuscript is January 31, 2013, at 11:59 p.m., EST. Winners will be announced on April 1, 2013. All prize winners will be notified and posted on www.westbowpress.com.
Thank you so much, Westbow!!! So incredibly grateful for you and all you do for writers. Also, (and maybe I need to check my website, too!), while I’d love to claim to have three degrees, I just wanted to clarify that my bachelor’s degree is only in nursing, but I had a strong emphasis in creative writing and journalism while at DePauw. 🙂
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