Friday, May 22, 2015

Really Bad Writing Advice: Dances With Editorial Letters

Almost six months to the day after I vowed to integrate my writing life into a more varied (read: get off couch and stop writing periodically) life, I'm here to tell you, it didn't quite work out.  On the other hand, I did finish my thriller, How To Disappear -- which I think I'm supposed to be calling #HowToDisappear, so there you go -- and sent it off to my new editor.

Then I received the editorial letter. 

For you trauma virgins out there, the editorial letter is where your editor makes helpful suggestions for rehabilitating your manuscript.  I had been hoping for a stupid but minimal one which I could placate by moving a few commas around, but no such luck.  It was on the brilliant, damn-why-didn't-I-think-of-that side.  Requiring actual revision.  Big revision.

Having finished said revision, I have developed a few simple rules guaranteed to screw up your revision process royally, moving me closer to my goal of being the only writer left standing.

1.) Defend against how overwhelmed you are by embracing the quasi-psychotic side of yourself that thinks it can leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Tell your editor, not only can I finish this by the truly impossible deadline, I can finish it sooner!  I can fly!  I am the queen of California!  I...

2.) After you crash and return to being overwhelmed, realize that the task is completely impossible.  You cannot fly.  You are barely the sentient being of California.  All good parts of the book would appear to have been written by someone else.  All parts of the book that require major surgery are the result of the fact that you can't write.  Embrace the idea that you can't write, let alone revise.  Panic.

3.) Binge-watch Gilmore Girls.  Pretend this is helpful in the revision process due to the fact that you're writing YA and Rory is a teenager. Think how many other shows would be useful for this reason.  Start with Awkward.  Proceed alphabetically.

4.) Consider the salutary effects of substance abuse.  (Unless you're a minor, in which case, don't.)  Think about [fill in the blank with your wrecked writer of choice, you have an alarmingly long roster of candidates].  Think about how much better than you the plastered/stoned/substance-impaired person of choice wrote.  Pathetic, huh?

5.) Cry.

6.) Re-read all 380 pages of your book each day before you start revising.  This should leave 20 or 30 minutes to revise before you fall into a sad, exhausted stupor.

7.) Reclaim your addiction to Coca Cola as the elixir of uncontrollable shaking for people in sad, exhausted stupors.

8.) Decide that you need a break to clear your head.  Consider the complete works of Jane Austen.  Note that Lydia Bennet is a teenager and therefore watching every min-series in which she appears after re-re-re-reading the book on your break is actually productive.

9.) Note that you haven't actually started to revise. 

10.) Suck it up.  Find your own uniquely neurotic path out of the quagmire & revise the freaking book.


  1. Oh My. Dread. I'm about to tackle such for my agent, and all I can think of is HOW TO DISAPPEAR(RRRRR) :0
    Sometimes I wonder; when Editors say YES and then suggest such revisions as to make it a whole other book--- well, there we go.

    1. I was not -- thank heavens! -- facing whole-other-book suggestions with HTD. The all it needs is a couple of penguins from outer space kind of thing. I don't know what I'd do. Probably follow steps 1-9 and not make it to #10. I hope you've got agent suggestions that help make your book more what you wanted it to be. Scary but ultimately useful. As opposed to a hijacking.

  2. Ann, you're so delightful!!!! Seriously!!!

    1. Thanks so much! (I was a lot less charming while revising, though, gotta say...)