So I waited nervously for my big, scary revisions call from my new editor, Kirk.
The phone rang. I answered, my heart picking up its pace. He asked how I was doing, shooting the proverbial breeze for a few minutes. I wasn't so good at shooting the breeze. My leg was bobbing up and down with nerves. I grabbed a pen in a death grip then found some paper to take notes with.
And then things got interesting.
See, with my publisher, each manuscript gets three readers evaluating it, and each reader fills out a gigantic form (something like 12 pages long) about the manuscript. I still have the evals from my first five books.
Kirk didn't send me the evals for this one. I still don't have them. I've never laid eyes on them.
Instead, we discussed them over the phone. I wasn't sure what I thought of that at first. On one hand, it's nice to see directly what someone said about the manuscript, to get criticism or praise from the horse's mouth, as it were.
On the other, getting criticism is harder from a nameless entity than it is from my critique group (friends I'd trust my life with) or my editor (someone I know is out for the best book we can make together). And sure, every so often, an eval will have a random comment that feels personal and sticks with you like a burr.
So in hindsight, I'm glad I've never seen the evals for Tower of Strength. Kirk and I discussed what needed discussing, and I heard both the good and the bad from him.
The conversation went something like this:
"Two of the readers thought such-and-such. What do you think?"
He actually had me weigh in on every topic. Often I agreed that the readers had a point.
He'd follow-up with, "Do you have any ideas for how to change it?"
Hmm. Let me think. We brainstormed together, and quite often I'd come up with a solution that we both agreed would work.
Each topic went about the same way. Very much, "Here's an issue. What you do think about it?"
In one or two cases, I outright disagreed with an eval and didn't want to change anything about the issue. Kirk was good with that. In those cases, he could totally see my point. So we moved on to the next thing.
Once he mentioned a reader comment that he disagreed with it and that I should ignore. Rock on. (By this point, I was really liking Kirk . . .)
At the end of the conversation, I had one-page list of notes (which I really didn't need to take; Kirk e-mailed me the same list later that day). Only one note would even remotely take time or much thinking. (And that one did make me do a lot of thinking and reworking, but it was so worth it.)
I loved how Kirk really cared about my opinion. A couple of times when I expressed a reason for why I'd written something a certain way that went against the evals, we worked together to find a way to make the book better while still keeping my original vision in the process.
I could tell he was in my corner the whole way. I hung up the phone in a fantastic mood. Kirk got me and was willing to work with me not only to make a better book but to make me happy as well. Yes!
The entire conversation lasted about 25 minutes and was probably the most painless call it could have been.
I got the rewrites done in all of two (easy-going) weeks. Then came the waiting and the waiting for the edit to arrive.
I was about to take a trip, and the edit would be ready about the same time. Kirk asked if I'd like to have it with me to read on the plane. I declined, preferring not to work during a vacation and promising to get right on it when I got home.
When I returned and opened the package, I was prepared for the usual editing process: take out my red pen and those sticky flags to mark anything I disagreed with and/or wanted changed (or changed back, as the case may be . . . remember my STET-craziness with Spires?). I assumed I'd spend several days, maybe even a week, going over the entire manuscript to read every red mark and note with a fine-toothed comb.
Once again, Kirk surprised me.