One writer’s developmental team

The fifteenth round of revisions on INFINITY LINE are in progress. Yes, I wrote the story. Yes, I alone will decide what changes will be made. But more than a dozen people have had their hands on the pulse of the story along with me.

“You should publish this!” Sure, every writer needs those first readers who smile and tell you they “love it!” Those first encouraging words give the writer the will to continue. But the real improvements come during revisions. For effective revisions, more minds are needed.

For two years, during ~24 writers group meetings, I read both early drafts and polished pages from the manuscript–about 5 pages at a time. Often I was disappointed by the lack of depth of feedback on my writing. But I acknowledge with only 15 minutes to read and discuss, I couldn’t expect much more than the suggested commas and “good job” comments on top of my pages. My writing group has been most helpful with developmental ideas. As a preview of my reading audience, they have been appropriately offended and shocked by parts of this story. They laughed when I intended humor. My writing can make them cry. They addressed my biggest questions, and gave me insight on whether my expected reader reactions would occur.

Now don’t tell me siblings are the wrong editors. If your siblings pat your back and slather on sugar-coated praise, they might not be helpful. In my family, my sisters and brother are a writer’s dream. They are insightful and diligent. They are loving and demanding. They are brutal.

Handwritten notes from Sister-Number-One are still paper-clipped in my notebook, on the pages of my own notes taken during a long phone conversation following her first read. She’s a math teacher.  She has an analytical mind. She’s opinionated and confident. She’s always right. She’s been a reader for more than 40 years. She pokes her shovel into obvious plot holes. She pokes her pointy dagger into crevices invisible to my eyes, and she rips them open for me to sew back together with stronger wire and words. She could be a professional developmental editor if her 30+ years of math teaching become boring.

Sister-Number-Two has read three times, I think. She has three kids in elementary school. Somehow, a fully commented manuscript file came back on an early version–much like one would pay for from a real live developmental editor. Nine pages of suggestions and insights arrived after my tenth revision–when I thought it was done. I was so wrong.

Finally, it was time to find a male perspective. (The men are not very vocal in our female-dominated writing group.) My Favorite-and-only-Brother is a novelist and screenwriter. He’s about to direct his own movie. He’s the real deal–trained to write, with an imagination to crush my own. He read the revised beginning of my novel over a weekend and ripped it up. The story and some lingering plot holes angered him as a male and a writer, respectively. He shined a bright light on the story from an angle I hadn’t considered. Oddly, this view cemented my resolve to continue my design.

Another full MS read-through from a critique partner revealed the need for more dialogue and more description. She wants more emotional connection. My male reader wants more action. She wants the novel to begin with Alex. My brother wants it to start with a Lorelei journal entry. I have the power to decide.

My favorite cover designer read the raw story, back about 8 or 9 revisions ago. She has ideas for the cover. I have none. She’s vital to my team.

My professional (aka PAID) editor has begun copy edits, which morphed into some unexpected developmental edits. Candace Johnson is special. She loves helping writers. She understands my lack of dollars. Currently, she accepts partial payment in hugs. How do I find these people? I am so lucky.

Next steps on this journey? Proofreader. Peek out there for representation. Decide on publishing route. Do it! Move on to next book.

 

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