Friday, May 29, 2009

Editorial Suggestions And Comments About This World We Live In

I have received a detailed letter outlining suggestions and comments from the editor of This World We Live In. Some I agree with, some I don't, but all indicate the intelligence and thoughtfulness that I had come to expect (I know at least one writer who has worked with this editor and who has loudly sung her praises).

The editor began her letter by telling me how she went about this particular, and not particularly easy, job. First she read This World We Live In. Then she read Life As We Knew It (which she'd read an early version of pre-publication). Then she read the dead and the gone. Then she went back and reread This World. She needed to determine how it worked as a standalone and as the sequel to two different novels.

I'm going to summarize some of the editor's suggestions (which I'll put in boldface) and some of my personal responses to those suggestions. Please remember the editor's suggestions are not as she wrote them, but as I paraphrase them. She wrote a single spaced three page letter, and a followup one page email, so my summaries will not do justice to her thoughts. Nor will I put all of them here. As always, this entry will be rife with spoilers.

Character and Setting Background: She would like more details about Miranda's fears and hopes earlier in the book, especially for those who haven't read LAWKI. She would also like more details about what the worldwide disasters were, and what Miranda's home and town are like.

All this is trickier than it might seem, but probably doable. I just have to have a delicate touch. Otherwise, the readers could get bogged down in details rather than action.

Alex: She would like Alex to be more sympathetic/appealing/attractive earlier on in the story, so readers will understand why Miranda is attracted to him.

Also doable, but also requiring a light touch. Alex is a problematic character under any circumstance. I love him, but he's not particularly lovable, which frankly is one reason why I love him. And I think Miranda is attacted to him more from hormones than anything else. In addition, I want Miranda to resent her father's affection for Alex and Julie, and if Alex comes off as too sympathetic too early, then Miranda's resentment will make her less likable. Still, I should be able to put in a quick glimpse of Alex tucking Julie in, or giving Julie a little bit extra food while taking less for himself, or even helping with housework without being asked.

The World Outside of Miranda's World: She would like to know more about what's going on in other locations, including information Miranda might have no access to. She thinks the readers would want to know more about how the government is handling things outside of Howell. She also suggests that we see the LAWKI/d&g household "rules" for survival, as they would be indicative of their own governing system (as well as a potential for conflict).

I was negative on this suggestion, and will most likely remain so. I don't think it's good for readers to know what the POV character doesn't know, which to some extent is unavoidable here, because some of the people who read This World will have read d&g (Miranda only knows what Alex and Julie tell her, and they don't tell her very much about their pasts). And while I love making up governmental rules and regs, I think they clutter a story.

The Ending: She would like more clarification at the actual end of the book, and a little more hope. She has no problem with it being open ended and said nothing about the fabulous part (a great relief to me), but she was confused about just what was going to happen once the book was over.

This is good, smart editing, and I'm already working out a slight shift in emphasis and a greater amount of detail for the last couple of pages. My agent had separately suggested the need for an additional Charlie scene, and I think I can work that in to give the new improved last couple of pages greater emotional resonance.

The Structure: She suggested eliminating the chapters, and having each month stand as a section.

I find this kind of funny, since when I wrote both LAWKI and d&g, I only put in chapters at my previous editor's request. But I think chapters are a good idea for This World, since the action takes place in only a three month period (four calendar months, April, May, June, July). I have each of those months as the start of a section, but I think chapter divisions within them are helpful. In any event, I put a poll up over at my other blog to see what you prefer.

I'll be working on the rewrites sporadically over the next couple of weeks, with a somewhat self-imposed deadline of June 11. Copy editing would like the book by June 15, since there's a very tight deadline if it's to be a Spring 2010 publication, which I fervently want. I will post here between now and then to let you know how the rewrites are coming along.