On Editing POLTERGEEKS

It’s Monday morning. I have to go to my day job. (Yeah, most authors have day jobs contrary to the myth that we’re all swimmingly rich because of jillion dollar book deals.) I spent my weekend doing revisions to POLTERGEEKS for my editor at Strange Chemistry Books, Amanda Rutter. (Actually the better part of the last week, truth be told.)

She sent me her notes on the manuscript more than a week ago. She’s got some pretty cool ideas for bringing out the best in the story. (I won’t go into the specific recommendations because that would give the book away.) Some of her ideas are blatantly “duh” on my part, because I should have considered the ideas when I wrote the first draft ages ago. So … what’s involved in doing revisions for your book editor?

First off, don’t get defensive. Your editor is on your side. He/she already believes in the book – you just have to be open to their suggestions. Now I’m mindful that some authors feel the need to fight for every sentence, every phrase, every single comma – but I’m not that guy. I tend to look at this process sort of like getting your car detailed. You already have a great car but wouldn’t it look better with the carpets shampooed and the paint job waxed and buffed to gemstone quality.

Amanda has pointed me in the direction of making certain elements of the story sound more genuine. (My agents Jenny and Ella will know PRECISELY what I’m talking about.) She also understands the need to balance these changes without affecting the pace of the story and folks, if I can tell you one thing about POLTERGEEKS, the pace flows at a blistering speed. (There’s a reason for this and you’ll get it if you decide to buy the book when it comes out this fall.)

She’s also helping me deal with the fact that I am genetically challenged in this novel. Namely, that my protagonist is a girl and I am a dude. (This is my third novel where the protagonist is a girl. Clearly I am a sucker for self immolation or something.) Actually, I think I’ve done a pretty good job of addressing many of the issues a teenage girl might experience but Amanda pointed me in the direction of one that I’ve been blind to: girl versus mom. Mea culpa: I did not know this was a normal thing about the relationship with mothers and daughters. So … I’ve really focused on that.

Another thing to remember when you’re working with your book editor is that you aren’t their only priority. I came to this conclusion after emailing Amanda far too many times this weekend with … “Hey Amanda … please read the following … does this work?” To her great credit, she got back to me very quickly and said it was okay to email her. She’s really good that way. 🙂

I guess it all boils down to the commonality between the editor and the author and that both sides need to understand early on that the book is already awesome: I mean, the publisher DID offer to publish. So it’s really a matter of figuring out how best to revise a shared vision for a project. That’s sort of where I’m at.

As I mentioned to Amanda last week: I write bubblegum and as you know, there’s really good bubble gum where the flavor lasts a long time and really lousy bubble gum that blows shitty bubbles. We need to make awesome bubble gum here …

Happy Monday, all!

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Posted January 30, 2012 by Sean Cummings in category "Blog

3 COMMENTS :

  1. By Liz on

    Oh Sean, this is such a fab blogpost. I can only imagine the excitement and nervousness and the whole journey. It has cheered me up no end and I cannot wait to read Poltergeeks! More power to your editing and writing arm(s).

    Reply
  2. By SharonS on

    yeah! for finding a editor that gets/helps your work and you write so much more than just bubblegum 🙂

    Reply
  3. By admin on

    Awwww … thanks so much, Liz. Amanda and I are working our tails off to get the best book possible for readers!

    Yeah, Sharon – having an editor who *gets* your book is critical at this stage of the process. And thanks for saying I don’t write bubblegum – perhaps a higher class of gum … Wrigley’s Big Red. (Can you even get that anymore?)

    Reply

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