3 S.R. Johannes: Steps to opening an editorial letter from Secret Agent & Awesome Assistant

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Steps to opening an editorial letter from Secret Agent & Awesome Assistant

Marketing Muse: Internet Marketing Training
Internet marketing training can cover many different aspects of the Internet. And choosing which areas to start learning about can be an overwhelming task in itself. This article simplifies this process by planning a "learning" agenda for you.

Steps to dealing with editorial letters

OK - since many of you have been so kind and thoughtful to email me offline asking for an update of my book editing process, I thought I would post one.

First - thank you so much for being interested in my journey. I really didn't think it would be interesting to anyone but me so I was trying to refrain from talking about it all the time. (except to my hubby and mom that is :)

I'll catch you up to speed:

Got Secret Agent in May
First draft sent in June
Edits returned
Revised draft sent in July

Yesterday, hot off the press, my secret agent emailed over her next "top secret assignment". And let me tell you it's a doosey! I don't even know if James Bond could tackle this one!

In a nutshell, I am changing the beginning and end. ugh! Hard but doable.

I love getting the editorial letter., especially when you print it out and it is 5 pages long, single spaced. (just kidding it was 1.5 spaced:)

Doesn't matter, I say the more changes the better! Right??? (Hey, that was not a rhetorical question!)

So after getting the letter and surviving it. I thought I would share secret steps on what you need to do you when you get an editorial letter that causes your printer to go "beep beep. Hello! can I get some more paper please!"?

1) Breathe! Preferably in and out. If you just breathe out - that would be considered hyperventilating and trust me - that only causes words to blur. I know this.

2) Chant. You now can begin to chant positive mantras to yourself before reading the lines. Things like: "How bad can it be? Doesn't matter, I can do it. I'm a good writer. My story rocks. She loves me, she loves me not." BTW, I think it is OK if your mantras are total cliches. Maybe even a little: "I'm good, I'm smart and darn it, I like me!"

3) Focus on the good news. You read the first and last paragraph. These are usually the 2 paragraphs where all the positive things are stuffed in. They cushion the changes. You know, the sandwich method, it's what I called it in consulting when I spoke to a client or did a yearly review with my associate :) You can repeat these 3 steps as many times as you need.

For example lets just say IF you agent said something like: "I see this as Meg Cabot with a heavenly flair" or "If Mia Thermopolis of Genovia died, this would be her afterlife.", then why not read it a million times, right? I mean, reading fabulous zingers like these - if you got them that is - can only help. :)

4) Read the OTHER pages. Now, it's time to read the rest (which BTW all the pages of advice I got are wonderful and detailed and through and packed with great ideas.) You MUST do this step without any attachment, without any judgment, and with an open (sane) mind.

However, it is OK if you are muttering during this step. Maybe things like: What? No way! oh crap! they didn't! how in the world? are they crazy? interesting idea. Dang why didn't i think of that? I know you are but what am I?)

5) Take notes of your own. This is so I can pair down and pinpoint what the changes really are and how extensive. This process summarizes 5 pages into 1. It helps you grab onto the real issues. It also makes the changes seem more fixable and not so scary.

6) Oh yeah, I almost forgot - now is when you can close your mouth right about now and stop pulling out your hair. Tell yourself, it is not that bad. It is doable. At least they did not change the middle! At least they did not kill off my character! ;)

7) Be grateful!!! why? because I have an agent!!! (and agent assistant). Not only that but ones who love my work, get my bad jokes, are fast as lightning, thorough as heck. They provide so many wonderful ideas that I really use, sometimes I wonder if their name should be listed as co-authors (OK maybe not that but they definitely deserve high accolades, 15%, and acknowledgements. Maybe even a box of chocolate.)

8) Vent and read the letter (multiple times) to your writing buddies - ANY and ALL that will let you. Only read to the ones who are not afraid to say - "oh they had a good idea". and "yikes, I agree with them". or "Yep, you need to get back to work and stop whining."
This helps b/c your writing buddies are objective and can see your book from a higher view than you can. They can say - oh that's not hard, it's just changing this. Or that's totally going to work. They are not as close as you are.

9) Vent to your hubby about all your writing woes, how you're getting older every day, how you probably aren't going to get published before your 60 anyway, and how you might need new writing buddies just because they don't' kiss your arse! :) After hubby says: Oh yeah I can see why they say that", you can then return to your office with door closed and steam, pace, cry, groan, hit your computer, brainstorm, take notes, rip notes, toss notes, and drink a glass or two of wine.

10) Reread the letter again and again, hoping the words will mysteriously disappear (except for the good parts of course :) Hey I'm a masochist - what can I say!

11) Sleep on it, dream of your book on the shelf, your movie on the screen, your name in PW. You have to sleep on it, don't' do any rash cutting at 2 am. Trust me - it is a waste of time.

12) Wake up fresh and smile, chanting "I can do this. This is good. This is better." Maybe even whistling while you work. (It could happen!)

13) Make a list - what do you agree with and why. what do you not agree with and why. The why is very important. If you just say... "because..." that is not good enough. There has to be a reason to incorporate the comments or a reason not to.

14) Make a plan. (no no no sillies, not a plan to prank call your critiquers. Who would think to do that???) You make a plan to incorporate their comments.The ones that resonate.

15) Run secret plan by your secret agent to get some last minute feedback before you tackle the plan. Just to be sure you took away what you needed. what they intended. I would recommend this so you don't spin your wheels for nothing. (Pssssst. This also give Secret Agent to change her mind and say - you know what? I love it just the way it is. Lets just get it to market. hey, don't laugh ! One can dream!!)

16) Try to remember - this is all part of the process. The journey. No author goes from agent to final book without revisions, without major development, without major edits. So dont' beat yourself up. This is how it goes. For all your PRE-agented writers - expect this.....alot. You are not done when you get an agent. Something I just found out :) (Surely JK Rowling had a least one editorial letter!!!)

17) Now, dig in.

This is where I am today. Ready to dig back in. Ready to do the work. Ready to put in the hours. When I hit the drawing board, I go all in. I get a babysitter, I take weekends thanks to wonderful hubby). I throw myself into. Not to get it done quicker but so I can immerse myself in it, live it, breathe it, and turn it around. I'm not chewing on this thing for 6 months, I've got stuff to do, plans. I would rather work 80 hrs in 3 weeks than 80 hrs in 6 weeks. Writing in 2 hour chunks a day is harder than just diving in for 8 hrs.

It's hard, especially with kids. But it's temporary. It's not all the time.

So this weekend, I am off to a hotel to dive in. (yes you heard me right. Hubby is sending me to hotel. Isn't that nice?)

I don't want to wade or doggie paddle in the shallow end. I like to cannonball into the deep end.

Let's all hope I don't drown!

Oh well, I guess nothing good comes without some kind of sacrifice. :)


Mame said...

"I know you are but what am I?"

I fell sideways off my chair...lol.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

You are amazing, Shelli. This post is hysterically funny and gut-wrenching but also filled with tons of energy. You are going to do it cuz that is who you are!

Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! Terrific post. And what a hubby!

Sherrie Petersen said...

I love hearing about your journey! And I totally agree that it's easier to dive in for 8 hours than to write in two hour chunks.

BTW, nice hubby!

Christina Lee said...

COMPLETELY fascinating to us non-agented ones-so keep it coming-I love hearing about it! and...hang in there (what a fab hubby you have!)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

aimee - you know I always love to hear I got a laugh somewhere. Im usually the only one laughing :)

tricia - energy? more like coffee, candy, and sugar iv :)

sherrie, corey, christinia - yes hubby rocks the house! he wants me to sell this thing more than I do. :)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i just realized I use alot of :)

is that annoying? ;)

oh goodness there is another one. where do they come from?

Kelly H-Y said...

LOVE your list!!! Congrats on your progress too! Awesome! And, what a hubby!!!!!

Lauren said...

Changing the beginning and the end!! Yikes! That IS a doozy of a task. You can do it! (insert cheering squad here)

I love your list. :)

PJ Hoover said...

Have a great time with your edits! I tend to always be amazed at all the suggestions my agent has. They are spot on.

Danyelle L. said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It was wonderful to read. Good luck with your edits. :D

lisa and laura said...

so jealous that you get to write in a hotel all weekend. that is EXACTLY what I feel like doing right now.

time to drop some massive hints to the husband.

Suzanne Young said...

HA HA HA Love this advice. I definitely do the venting to the hubby. haha. But I don't print. My ed letters would make my printer set on fire.

Good luck with your edits!!

Jessie Oliveros said...

That was fun to read. Sounds a little stressful-with a grain of humor. That's great your husband is so helpful with the kids and encourages you to take time off to write. Now if I can just train mine...

Tara McClendon said...

What a great witty post. If your book is half as good (and I'm sure it is), I'll be buying it. :]

holly cupala said...

Hooray for digging in! This is hilarious and right on the money.

Anonymous said...

Nice. Great post! Have a great weekend of writing at the hotel!!

Crystal said...

LOVE this post, Shelli!

I've always wondered what an editorial letter from an agent was like & the timeline one had to complete the agent's suggestions for revision. Thanks for providing this behind-the-scenes look! Now I know what to expect if I am ever blessed with an agent. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this part of the journey with us! I know you'll do well! :)

Carrie Harris said...

How great that hubby is sending you to a hotel!!! Enjoy that writing time and whip that baby into shape!

Susan R. Mills said...

Too funny! Hmm...and I thought if I could just land an agent, all would be well with the world! :) Thanks for sharing your journey, and good luck with your revisions!

Camille Eide said...

Great post - a friend sent a link since she knows I am suffering the same torture. But mine was a single spaced 10 pager. It took double the griping, whining and glaring at the screen to find a (sort of) happy place. It's a heck of a job! I can sympathize.
Cheers from one editorial letter sufferer to another!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

kelly, lisa laura - ask and you shall receive. try it on your hubby's see what happens :)

holly and pj - so you get these letters too? right? ;)

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

lauren and danyelle - thanks!

lazywriter, crystal and Jessie - agents are only the beginning. edits are just the next step in a long journey but its worth it!

camille and tara - thanks for coming by :)

lynn and suzanne - im getting ready to dive in!

Heidi Willis said...

This is really great to read! I'm heading into this right now (well, with an editor, but same thing, really), so it's awesome to know what is coming and that others are surviving through it too!

You posts are always chuck full of information. Some of it I haven't been ready for before now, but I'm about to dive in and peruse the archives gleaning great info.

Is that the deep end? :)