Sunday, June 5, 2011
Liz's Lair: Knowing Which Battles to Fight
Before I get started on this topic, I want to let everyone know that Mortal Deception will not be released today. Since Amazon has started a new mystery line along with their romance line, my agent wants to submit it first. If they decide to pass on it, I will get it up in a hurry, and we can drink cyber margaritas. Stay tuned.
Now to the topic. I know a writer who will never change anything about her story, no matter who suggests the changes. I used to think she was being true to herself… that she was confident in her own writing. But after going through edits with my own editor, I no longer hold my friend up as my hero. She remains unagented and unpublished with a story that has garnered more rejections than Stephen King's 150 or so. I can’t help wondering if she had made a few revisions, would her story have had a better chance in NY? Is her failure to bend a little keeping her out of the bookstores?
With that in mind, I decided to share my own experiences with you about changing my story. Fortunately, my copy edits were minor and not too painful. The first big curve ball came my way when my editor said that after a marketing meeting to discuss my book, they not only wanted to change the title Ducks in a Row to Liver Let Die, but they also wanted the series to be called The Clueless Cook Mysteries instead of the original Casserole Lover Series.
I balked … argued that it made my heroine seem stupid and suggested several other possible titles. My editor said she would go back to the arts and copy gurus and talk to them, but they really did like the Clueless Cook title since my heroine takes over as the culinary reporter at the local newspaper and has no idea how to cook.
I was satisfied she would look into it, but before she called back, I had a change of heart. The room at Berkley had been filled with marketing experts with who knows how many years experience between them. Who was I, a retired nurse with a BA in arts, to think my way might be better?
I called Faith (my editor) and told her I was fine with both the book title and the series’ title. I will call this banter with her the Battle of Titles, and this round went to her. I had waived my white flag.
Next came Faith’s copy edits. My cozy differs from most of the others in the genre because it’s written in third person and includes the hero’s POV. I even had a few scenes from the killer’s point of view as this is how I write my straight mysteries. Faith wanted me to cut the killer POV scenes… said they took her out of the heroine’s POV and didn't say anything that the reader didn't already know or wouldn't find out later. However, she said if I felt strongly about leaving them in, we’d discuss it.
This was my chance to win a battle. Instead, I deleted all three scenes. Round two – the Battle of the POVs again went to Faith. After reading through the scenes again, I realized she was right on.
The last big thing I conceded was the name of my heroine’s newspaper. I called it The Ranchero Globe. The copy editor argued it should be Ranchero Globe(without the italicized and lowercase "the".) I argued that on the cover it's listed as The Ranchero Globe. Last week I heard back from Faith that as per grammar rules, it will be Ranchero Globe. When I checked on the cover at Amazon, I discovered they had deleted the "the" and it now reads Ranchero Globe.
Okay that one was a draw. I argued that it should be exactly as it is on the cover. So they fixed the cover.
There were a few more points I argued, and apparently, they made my changes. I was never overly aggressive...merely expressed my wishes as to why I wanted to keep certain things in. Faith is a dream editor, and I trust her judgment implicitly. Remember when I asked her what she needed from me for book 2 before I wrote it...a synopsis, three chapters? Basically her response was that it was already under contract, and I just needed to write it. If she puts that much trust in me, then I have to trust her editorial instincts. She’s been at this a whole lot longer that I have. I couldn't be happier with the entire Berkley team working on Liver Let Die. I should be getting my galleys before long, and I think I’ll need surgery to get the perpetual grin off my face as I hold "my" book in my hand
So, my point in all this is how do you know when to make the changes and when to stick to your guns? No one wants to be labeled "difficult", but after all, it is our story. I want to know how you handle it when someone suggests a major change in your work. I know a lot of you enter contests and have CPs who sometimes see the story differently than you do. Do you pick your battles or draw the line in the sand like my friend?
Do you concede some things and save your best arguments for things that really matter to you? Inquiring minds want to know.