Making the Leap: Time to Change Manuscripts

My plan all summer long has been to get as far as I can on my new middle grade mystery and then set it aside when my editorial letter arrived for SUGAR ON SNOW, the figure skating novel that will be my second book with Walker Books for Young Readers.  I knew I’d need to make the switch this week, but it didn’t go exactly as I’d planned. 

My editor actually emailed me the editorial letter on Monday with a note saying that line edits would arrive on Tuesday.  I  wanted both before I started revising, so I was going to work one last morning on the middle grade mystery before the UPS guy arrived.  But when I sat down at my computer yesterday, I realized that something had happened — a switch had flipped from right to left in my brain Monday night when I read that emailed editorial letter.  It had transported me out of the world of the middle grade mystery, out of the world of stolen treasures and busy city airports and back to the maple farms and ice skating rinks of SUGAR ON SNOW.  I actually went and stood out front for a little while, willing the UPS guy to come early.  But he didn’t.

So I went for a long run instead.  About a mile from my house, there’s a community college in a big old building at the top of a hill overlooking Lake Champlain.  It is a very big hill, one that I hadn’t tackled on my morning run in well over a year, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it all the way to the top without stopping.  But somehow, trying seemed like a good idea yesterday.  All through the run, I thought about the issues that my editor had raised in her letter, the scenes she’d asked me to consider adding.  I came up with a perfect setting for one of those scenes, a conversation between my main character and her best friend from home.  And before I knew it, the ground leveled, and I was at the top of the hill.  I’d made it.  Because I kept my head down and kept moving, one step at a time.  Not a bad lesson at all to begin a revision day.

I stretched against the stone wall overlooking the lake, ran home, did some yoga on the deck, jumped into the lake in my running clothes, dried off, and picked the girl up from her art camp for lunch.  I was picking Japanese beetles off the aster plants out front when the UPS guy pulled up in his big brown truck. 

And I was ready for him.

Last night, during E’s skating lesson, I sat in the chilly sound booth and made my to-do list, marking the manuscript with ideas next to my editor’s comments, sticking Post-It notes where I could add those scenes she’d requested (I do love my Post-It notes), and making a list of little bits of research that I need to do.  Today, I’ll start on page one.  I promise a process-post later on for those who enjoy nitty-gritty revision details. But mostly…I’ll just be keeping my head down for the next few weeks, taking it one step at a time.

29 Replies on “Making the Leap: Time to Change Manuscripts

  1. one step at a time

    A good post to start MY day. Today I’m nearing completion of my painting. I’ll be thinking of you…….one step at a time.

  2. great story! i often find that i do some of my most important work on a story when i’m exercising- it gets me thinking in new ways or something. and one step at a time are words to live by with revision!

  3. I love working off a revision letter. I love having direction and knowing what needs work. The hard part for me is once I start tearing the thing apart, I don’t want to leave. Revision is when I can sit at my desk for hours and hours and stay in that story until I can’t keep my eyes open any longer. It’s exhilarating and exhausting all at once!

    Happy revising!!

  4. I love that switch in your brain that snapped on: ready! And one step at a time seems like a very good way to move through revision. And I love your editor for getting this to you with plenty of time before you have to get back to teaching.

  5. Just made it through the easy line edits on the first 44 pages ( I do the easy ones first so I feel good about myself before tackling the bigger issues!)

  6. I feel the same way, Lisa – revision is the fun part!

    Also…I am making your blueberry crumb bars today – thank you for the recipe!

  7. Exactly! Part of the revision is actually double-checking some of the skating descriptions with some people who can actually DO the things in the book!

  8. Ha! I was just thinking the same thing about your post the other day – it’s so nice to put a real live face and voice to blog friends!

  9. Honestly, I love editorial letters. They lay these things out so neatly and cleanly and brilliantly that it’s a pleasure to go through the manuscript, checking things off as you make them better. You’ll have fun.

  10. Yay on getting up that hill! And good luck on the revision. I always think it’s a good sign when our minds dive into a book like that — it means something in us is ready.

  11. Thanks, Amy – I’ve actually held off from reading this book for months, figuring I’d come back to it with fresh eyes when the editorial letter came, so I am ready!

  12. Happy revising!

    I love Post-Its, too and jump to their defense every time my mother, a historian-archivist type, bemoans them (the adhesive isn’t friendly to old paper). They have their uses and the revision process is something I wouldn’t dream of doing without them.

  13. I get many of my best ideas while walking. (I wish I could still run – bad knees.) Loved reading about your glorious morning run and how it helped you with SUGAR ON SNOW. I heard E.L. Konigsburg say once how writers need space and silence to write our stories.

  14. I’m just coming out the other side of the process, trying to remember what the book I abandoned to revise is about.

    I keep saying one day, I’ll learn to keep two books in my head at once, even if I don’t work much on the in-progress one during revisions. But I haven’t figured out how yet–I have to let that switch in my brain flip, too.

  15. I think there’s something about moving (running, walking) with nowhere in particular to go that gets our brains moving. As for the space & silence…they’re lovely but tough to come by in my world, so I’ve learned to be pretty flexible!

  16. It’s interesting, isn’t it? The other book is still there, and in fact, driving home from the library today I found myself playing with one of the scenes in my mind. But I bet if I sat down to write, I’d feel…I don’t know…like I were cheating on the book I’m supposed to be revising. Maybe it’s because the deadline’s pretty tight. Ah well…

  17. Amen – I’ve thought about buying stock in the Post-It note company I love them so much. And it’s so satisfying to take them off and stick them somewhere else when you’ve accomplished a little revision job, isn’t it?

  18. Yeah, I was on a tighter than usual timeline, too!

    For me, it’s like a method acting thing, almost … hard to channel more than one voice at the same time. (Hmmm, I wonder if actors struggle with trying to study two roles at once …)