Tribulation amidst the Jubilation – A Peek at the Revision Process After Acquisition, Part 1 - by Marsha Diane Arnold
Oh, the jubilation that occurs once a manuscript has finally sold. There are praises and congratulations all around. But the story (pun intended) does not stop there. Depending on your manuscript, your editor, and your illustrator, a bit more tribulation awaits the jubilant writer.
But we are not Twinkies, dear writers. We don’t come two to a pack. We are individuals. So the amount of revision, if any, and how it is handled, will vary depending on our story, our editor, and our illustrator.
Let’s peek at the changes made after acquisition in some of my recent books, published or to be published between 2015 and 2017.
After Lost. Found. sold (Neal Porter Books 2015), I had almost no interaction with my superstar editor and illustrator. Maybe it was because my editor and I thought my manuscript was pretty near perfect. Others seemed to agree, as it received three starred reviews. But another reason for little interaction might have been that, when sold, the word count was only 22. Not much to change there. In the end, two “losts” and two “founds” were deleted, making the word count 18. The cuts were made, without my input, but losing them worked perfectly with the illustrations.
Of course, the manuscript had lots of art notes; those were closely followed as well. But my illustrator Matthew Cordell added a few images that provided extra mischievousness and fun to some scenes.
With my next four manuscripts, the editors shared a lot with me as the stories went through their steps to become books. This made me happy and excited (jubilation!). But it also brought a bit of tribulation (and work!)
A Welcome Song for Baby was sold to Tamarind Books, Random House, UK. Having an ocean between us didn’t cause too much of a challenge, but because I’d written my story for an American audience, word changes were needed (Mama became Mummy) and animal species and seasons needed to be looked at again.
There was also quite a bit of back and forth about commas, periods, and other matters that might seem minor to those without writing proclivities.
For example, the second page of the book now reads “Daddy builds a cradle, Grandpa paints a room.” In the original text, there was a period between “cradle” and “Grandpa.” I thought it slowed down my main character’s observations, showing she is thinking about what everyone else is doing and leading to her question,“What will I do, I wonder, to welcome the new baby?” Also, originally the “I” was italicized, but in the final book it lost its slant. In both these cases, I bowed to my editor.
There were also points that took multiple emails back and forth to arrive at mutual happiness. The text near the climax now reads,
“Now I hum a hurry, hurry bee song as we wait...”
That small phrase went through quite a bit of conversation across the ocean. My original text read, "Slurping sticky lemonade in summer hotness, I hum a hurry, hurry bee song.”
At one point my editor cut the line completely. No, Not my darling! I thought, then offered up my point-of-view.
“’Keeping the “hurry, hurry bee song’ allows for a repetition of the bees from the beginning of the summer section, which is a nice reflection, and more importantly shows that Emma is anxious for Baby to arrive. May we change to this:
“Now I hum a hurry, hurry bee song as Mummy and I wait...”
My editor suggested, “Now I hum a hurry, hurry bee song as we wait” as it flowed “slightly more smoothly.” Of course he was absolutely right. In my hurry to save part of my darling, I’d failed to see this. Thanks to my editor, we now had perfection, at least in our eyes.
That’s enough revision tribulation for us this month. Next month, I’ll continue with peeks that allow us to see what makes a better book and a better writer – those revisions after acquisition.
Marsha Diane Arnold is an award-winning author with over a million books sold. Her newest book, Waiting for Snow, will arrive on the scene November 1st. Stop by this blog again next month to see what revisions were made after acquisition for this and other of her books.
9/9/2016 08:56:21 am
What great insight into the editor-author-illustrator relationship! Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to the next installment.
9/10/2016 06:53:03 am
So glad it was helpful, Amanda. I'll share even more secrets next month. :)
9/9/2016 12:31:00 pm
What a truly helpful post. Thank you for sharing this Marsha.
9/10/2016 06:54:01 am
Thanks so much, Mira!
9/9/2016 05:42:23 pm
Helpful, fantastic post!
9/10/2016 06:54:43 am
So glad you thought so, Cathy!
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Meet the Friday Blogonauts
First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
Second Fridays will feature awesome multi-award winning author Marsha Diane Arnold who will be writing about character-driven and/or nature-based books and/or anything she likes :)
Third Fridays will feature independent Aladdin/Simon & Shuster editor Emma Sector who has helped bring many books into the world.
Fourth Fridays will feature the great Christine Taylor-Butler who has published over 70 award-winning fiction and non-fiction and nonfiction books including the acclaimed new middle grade series - The Lost Tribes.
Fifth Fridays will feature the fabulous Carl Angel award-winning multi-published Illustrator and graphic designer.
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