I just got the third set of revision notes on what used to be called “Last Wish” and is now being called “When You Wish Upon a TV Star” You’d think after doing hefty revisions twice already that at this point there would only be minor tweaking. But no, my editor still wants major changes. Think large slashing cuts. Think changes in the premise of the story. And you can’t just cut a chunk of a novel out and be done with it. You’ve got to find all of the references that refer to the chunk and cut them out too. Then you’re left with large gaping holes that you have to replace with something.
For example, say you’ve written the story of Superman and your editor says, “The flying thing just doesn’t work for me.”
There’s no simple way to cut that out. You’ve got to figure out how in the heck Superman now gets from place to place, how he now rescues the heroine since he can’t swoop down through the sky and pick her up from on top the burning building—and oh yeah, all those cute lines they exchange about her fear of flying—those are gone. The argument they have in scene two because she doesn’t believe he can fly . . . well that’s going to be problematic too since once you cut the flying she now has no reason to stomp off and be angry. Scene three suddenly makes no sense.
This is pretty much what I’m up against and this is the THIRD revision.
My agent called me a few days ago and gave me a pep talk about how I need to be professional and not get angry and upset about these things. (I filled out an application to go back to college after my second round of revisions.) For round two of revisions I got a six page letter of major things to change along with all the notes on the manuscript page. My agent told me some of her authors routinely get twenty page letters.
I can’t believe I’m still being asked for major changes at the third revision; My agent told me she knows authors who routinely go through six revisions. (I may still have three left to go, who knows.)
So I am not supposed to be upset by all of this.
But here’s the thing; authors frequently refer to our manuscripts as our babies. There is a reason for this. When you write a story, when you labor and try to make it the very best it can be—it’s no longer just a story. It is now a part of who you are and vice versa.
Going through major revisions is like watching your child being taken out and flogged to an inch of her life.
I don’t know how an author who cares about his/her book can do that six times. I really can’t imagine it. The only way I could do that is if I didn’t care about the story to begin with–if it was nothing more than a piece of commerce, and I didn’t care how it was cut, changed, and shaped into something completely different than what I wanted it to be.
I’m beginning to think this is why there is so much mediocre fiction out there. Maybe the only way to survive in this business is to just not care very much about your work.
But on the bright side, I’m going back to college.