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Saturday, October 22, 2011

John Ramsey Miller

Just to get everybody up to speed, I’m going through my process as I rewrite and move to publish my latest novel. At this point I am thinking I will probably self-publish as an eBook. That said, I won’t rule out a paperback deal if my agent wants to shop it and a publisher wants to put it out.

So two weeks ago I said I hired an editor who’d left a major house to go with her husband and kids to Ohio. I’ve finally read through her notes, and frankly she has nailed the weaknesses I painstakingly installed in BURNING BRIDGES from its inception. I can see it all clearly now. And (as always) I’m embarrassed for my agent who sent this to the editors, and for myself because my name is on the MS. What was I not thinking? I know that if I can’t fix all of the flaws, I can certainly make different ones to replace them. This is the point in the process where I feel like I’m at my desk in a classroom wearing BVDs.


Editors always start editorial letters with something like, “I really enjoyed my read of (Name of the novel goes here). There’s a lot to like in the book as well some things I have trouble with.” Translation: Holy Mother of God, what is this steaming pile of crap you sent me?”

Okay, that’s the old insecurity shining through like the warming rays of a neutron bomb.

The editor I am utilizing is as good as any editor I’ve ever worked with and I have worked with the best. Another plus is that her sense of humor is pitch perfect. An example of editorial humor would be a circled sentence with this penciled into the margin… “Please read this over carefully and tell me that this is in English.”

My process is akin to what a blind and starving wolverine that’s been thrown into a henhouse might go through in those first few moments when the wolverine senses the meat, and the chickens become aware of their situation and reach critical mass freak out in a confined space.

I must also say that I am not gifted with organization skills beyond lining up Skittles in neat lines by color and eating them one hue at a time.

First I read the ten-page editorial letter several times to get a general picture of the depth of the stacked-word catastrophe. Next I cleared off my dining table and placed on it my laptop, laser printer, index cards, legal pads, ink and roller ball pens, sharpened Black Warrior pencils, red erasable pen, stick-on notes in yellow, those peel off arrows in six colors, Snickers bars, and roll in my Herman Miller Aeron in Author Black that I bought years back.

The next day my table was a huge disaster, and I was juggling the edited MS, a blank document for rewriting, killing, or combining chapters, and creating new ones from scratch. And there’s the construction document where I will assemble the refined mess. Then I will print that and go back and edit myself before having the editor hit it again to see if I was successful. All of this will take a month to six weeks. And each day when I sit down I have no idea what the session will bring to the pages.

I think initial confusion and wading through the piles is how a pretty good effort sometimes goes on to become a very, very good book. That is what keeps me going at this point. More to follow...


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