Friday, November 13, 2015

#3 - Panic Editing

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I was supposed to release HUNTER'S MOON this week! But I'm still editing. I was inspired by the feedback from my betas and it's leading to a whole new ending - and some tweaking in the first third.

Rather than getting down on myself too much for missing my deadline, I'm trying to focus on the most important thing: writing the best book I possibly can.

Whether you're an indie or a traditionally published author, the closer you get to your publishing date, the more emotional things get. You might find yourself questioning some of your decisions.

I'm not talking about big creative decisions. 

Though you might wonder about those things too. But for now, I'm talking about the small details that can hurt your book's chances of 'having legs.'

'Having legs' is when a book can sell and feel fresh for a very long time. We all want our books to have legs because we all want our books to sell forever.  But I made a few panic-induced changes to my books that actually hurt their potential to feel relevant indefinitely.

Take my first book DEVIL MAY CAREThe main character, Sally, is an actress and to help give her a happy ending, I wrote that she got a part on SEX AND THE CITY.

Unfortunately, around the same time it was announced that SEX AND THE CITY was going off the air! The hardcover was already out, so it was too late for that. But I wanted to make sure the paperback could be updated when it came out. So I asked my publisher - through the editorial assistant - if I could tweak the book and say that my character got a part on a SEX AND THE CITY spinoff.

It was just a small change, so there was no problem.

And it seemed to make sense, because back then, everyone was talking about Samantha spinoffs and Carrie spinoffs or whatever. So getting a part on a SEX AND THE CITY spinoff seemed likely.

Of course, there were never any SEX spinoffs.

A couple movies, maybe - but no more TV shows. Meaning that reference in my book was absolutely ridiculous. It was also near the end of the book, so I'm sure it pulled readers right out of the story!

I'm actually embarrassed to admit this now because unless you're writing sci-fi, it's a lame idea to refer to something that might happen in the future.  If I had just left it the way it originally was, it might have dated the book, but at least it wouldn't seem like a bad joke.

Another example from DEVIL MAY CARE is equally embarrassing. In the book, Sally meets Courteney Cox at a restaurant. She's so impressed, she starts telling friends she met 'Courteney- F*cking-Cox!' So every reference to Courteney was this: Courteney-F*cking-Cox. Which I thought was pretty cute.

This is the version in the hard cover.

But just before the paperback was coming out, Ms. Cox married David Arquette and officially changed her name to Courteney Cox-Arquette. I decided to lose my 'clever' little moniker and make it Courteney Cox-Arquette throughout the book.

Of course, Courteney started using her maiden name again very soon, for everything from cosmetic ads to COUGAR TOWN. So who really remembers Courteney Cox-Arquette? Again, it was a stupid thing to do: it dates the book and probably takes readers out of the story.

But these are just the sort of emotional decisions you're likely to make as a writer when you're doing your last pass of editing, so before you do, check yourself, calm down and don't do anything you'll regret.

The same thing happened in my second book BY INVITATION ONLY.  This time, it had to do with the financial crisis in 2008. The book was coming out in 2009 and since one of the main characters was an investor, my agent suggested that we make some kind of reference to the economic climate.

So in this lighthearted chick lit book - that was supposed to be all romance and comedy - I referred to the economic crash several times, locking it in time, rather than allowing it to be classic.

Honestly, these all seemed like relatively rational edits to make at the time, even if some of them seem ridiculous now. To help you avoid making the same mistakes while you're editing, I'd say this:

Don't be paranoid and don't panic.

Any change you make because of something happening recently in the news or the 'real world' will probably backfire on you.

Unless something is happening that you absolutely can't avoid - and (this is the most important thing) the change will actually make the book better - ignore it.

Instead of being reactionary, try to look at the big picture. 

Try to stay classic. Try to think long term for your book. Avoid referring to trends or things happening in the news - unless they help your book. Because even if something's at the top of everyone's mind at the moment, a few months down the road - let alone years - nobody's going to remember it and you might be hurting your book's chance of 'having legs.'

Courteney Cox being a case in point. Because not only did she drop the name - it didn't take her long to drop the husband too!

I'm going to keep going through the book deal process, step by step! Subscribe to the blog to follow along. I'm not going to badger you with ads for my new book! It's just about keeping up with the process. I honestly believe that if I had been better prepared for my book deals, I would be in a totally different place right now. Better than going indie?

That remains to be seen! 

Hit me up on Twitter: @SLMcInnis! I follow back!

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