To attack critically where a person is vulnerable, uninformed.
Yep, that’s what happened to me when I got the latest round of edits on the sequel to The Accidental Hero.
Before you can understand why I took it so hard, I need to lay a little groundwork.
When I finished my first draft, I knew there were some problems. I told my editor that I needed more time because there were things that needed to be fixed. Of course, my editor accused me of being addicted to revising as she knows that’s my favorite part of the writing process. She pushed me to just hand it over, but I refused. I can make it better before I give it to you, I insisted.
I went back over the manuscript and performed my own edits, changing parts of the storyline and adding others to make everything sync up and hold together … hopefully to produce a riveting suspense with a healthy dose of romance. A fitting addition to my crime thrillers for women brand. The editing took a lot longer than I’d expected and I finished off the work at the end of 2019.
Did I think I’d produced a perfect manuscript? Of course not.
When I emailed the draft to my editor on January 1st, did I think I knew exactly where the remaining issues could be?
Well, I was wrong. Big Time!
I guess I should look on the bright side and be pleased that everything I thought was going to be an issue passed with mostly flying colors. Sure, there are some technical things that need to be tweaked, but the heart and soul of the story in those areas remain unchanged.
Instead, I was blindsided by a core concept that I used to start the book that actually didn’t work—Mena and Julian had broken up.
***Spoiler alert*** At the end of The Accidental Hero, Mena and Julian have a heartfelt scene in the hospital where they confess that they’ve fallen in love with each other. Julian makes it clear that he wants to be with her, no matter where she is and Mena is ecstatic.
Fast forward to the start of the sequel and there has been an “off camera” break up that is never clearly explained and doesn’t make sense in the context of who readers (and, reluctantly I admit me too) have come to expect of Mena and Julian.
As my editor laid out why that didn’t work and what I should do to fix it, I sat at my computer stunned. Changing that one thing has a ripple effect through the first half of the sequel.
The number of scenes I’d have to tweak, modify or overhaul began to ratchet up in my mind.
Tears welled in my eyes at the realization that making those edits puts my whole writing schedule for the year instantly behind. As I engaged in the conversation, I forced my voice to remain steady and calm as tears flowed down my face. I felt like a freight train had hit me.
Why was it so hard?
Because everything my editor pointed out to me seemed crystal clear and obvious. Why hadn’t I been able to see that myself? I should have picked up on the muddiness that breaking up Mena and Julian had brought to the story. I should have fixed that problem long before I handed over a manuscript to the editor.
I couldn’t even argue or push back on the suggestions because every single one of them rang true. Edits would be necessary to “kill a darling” from my book. A plot concept that I hadn’t even considered could be a silent detractor to my novel.
After I got myself together, I realized this is why it is important to have a second or third set of eyes on my writing, or really any big project that takes months to complete.
It’s so easy to get lost working on making sure each tree is healthy and strong, that you forget to step back and see the forest. The big picture. Did you accidentally plant an oak tree in the middle of a bunch of palm trees? And when it is pointed out to you, can you explain why the oak tree needs to be there or do you realize that it was a mistake that needs to be rectified?
The most important thing is for me to make each book as good as I can make it, with all the tools and resources I have at my disposal.
So, I’m off to go cut down an oak tree.
In this episode, I talk about receiving constructive criticism on my sequel to The Accidental Hero from my editor, how I processed it and what I’m doing going forward.