Guest Post: Welcome back, Lamar! Lamar (L. R. Giles) has visited Seeking the Write Life a few times, and we always enjoy hearing from him. He secured a big six publishing contract last year...but I'll let him tell you the story:
little over a year ago, Aimee allowed me to give a lengthy account of how I came to sell my debut
YA Thriller FAKE ID (formerly WHISPERTOWN) to
HarperCollins. She and I chat often on Twitter, and I asked if there was
anything her readers might be interested in hearing about post-sale? She barely
hesitated when she said, "The editorial process".
Aimee wants she gets…
I start, a couple of quick notes:
the purposes of this post, I’m going with a broad interpretation of
“editorial”, meaning everything that me, my editor, and my agent deal with
jointly, not just the specifics of manuscript revisions. All of it is
intertwined. Also, since the timeline aspect of my last post seemed to go over
well, I’ll stick with the familiar.
I’m giving you my in-the-moment experiences and reactions, some things may
seems less than positive because that’s how it felt at the time. Let me be
clear, I work with AMAZING people in this industry. I’ve gone on at length in
other forums about my incredible agent, and I need to extol the virtues of my
editor, too. My book is a better book because of their guidance. By telling you
of various delays that occur when you’re a debut writer, I’m not indicting
anyone. I simply want you to understand that every part of this process is a
SLOW GRIND that you have very little control over. When it’s your turn, be
prepared to hurry up and wait.
get the first half of my advance. My wife takes a picture of me holding the
check in a Heisman pose. (I’m not going to show you the picture.) With this money
comes a set of dates that I’m contractually obligated to meet. My next draft of
WHISPERTOWN is due on 1/23/2012. My editor expects to give me revision notes
sometime in November. That means a two-month turnaround. Intimidating, but I’m
a pro and I’m ready.
birthday comes. I’m 32, and I realize that by the time my novel debuts in
summer 2013 I’ll be 33 and a half (or so I think). Wow. Seems far and close at
the same time. I enjoy a good dinner and some cake with my family while mentally
preparing to meet my writing obligations. My Edit Letter will be coming any day
Letter yet. My agent assures me this is normal. “But, what about that date in
my contract, the one that says I have to turn in a new draft in January or legal
armaggedon will come to pass?” My agent says, “Lamar, I’m pregnant, and the
baby is, like, tap dancing on my kidney right now. We’re fine, and I’m going to
make sure I don’t have any internal damage. More soon.” Really, that’s not what
my agent said, though she was pregnant at the time. She let me know that the
dates in contracts are flexible because things change on a dime in publishing.
Fair enough. Less stress during the holidays.
Edit Letter. My agent is on maternity leave and I’ve heard little to nothing
from my editor since signing my contract in August because she is SWAMPED.
Surprise, surprise, I’m not the only book on the HarperCollins list in 2013. It
takes a long time to edit a book, longer to edit it well. My editor is a
seasoned pro responsible for a lot of things; some of those things take
precedence over me.*
contracted revision deadline comes and goes. I’m not overly concerned because
my agent told me this was normal, and many of my writer friends are
experiencing similar shifts in their revision dates. I’m lying if I say I’m not
a little annoyed about the delays,
but what can be done?
likes waiting, but good notes from a good editor are worth the time. Maybe
twice in my career, I’ve heard a writer say their editor got back to them
quickly and had no notes because their manuscript was perfect. It’s great if
that works for those scribes, but I’d probably have a panic attack if my editor
gave me no notes. I’d think they either don’t care, or the manuscript is SOOO
bad it’s not even worth the effort of small improvements. It’s better to wait
than rush here.
to see here. Move along.
talk about going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. On 4/16/2012 I get an email from my
agent. It’s an annotated PDF of WHISPERTOWN—essentially a scanned copy of my
novel featuring all of my editor’s handwritten margin notes. It comes with a
promise that a long-form Edit Letter is on the way. The date doesn’t stand out
to me because of the sudden publishing activity. It’s the date I get laid off
from my day job of 10 years. I want to take a moment to reflect on that…
you’ve experienced a layoff (I hope you haven’t, but if you have…) you may
understand how devastating/humiliating/depressing the process can be. In his
memoir ON WRITING, and to a greater extent, in his
novel DUMA KEY, Stephen King posits that there
is healing power in art, writing and painting respectively. Now I have a reason
to agree with him. As hard as it is to lose my job, there’s comfort in knowing
I still have work to do. Also, I learn a humbling lesson.
annoyance at the shifting dates was unjust. If I’d gotten my revisions any
sooner, I wouldn’t have had the divinely timed comfort of getting my first set
of editorial notes on the same day my company gives me a pink slip. If I’d
gotten them any later, I would have undoubtedly suffered from the anxiety of
being unemployed AND in publishing limbo. Everything happens when it’s supposed
to. This is a lesson I have to remind myself of in May when I get more news I’m
not really enthusiastic about.
2-hour call with my editor to discuss my long-form Edit Letter (9 pages,
single-spaced…YIKES!) and how I will tackle WHISPERTOWN revisions. It’s a great
talk overall, but there are moments of panic and sadness.
My editor feels I need a major rewrite due to a pacing issue. Two primary
characters only know each other for a week in the original draft. They need
more time together to justify later events. The expansion of this relationship
sends ripples through the ENTIRE novel. There’s no way to cut and paste around
this (not that you should ever do that anyway—maybe more on that in another
post). This is just ONE change. Remember, my letter is 9-pages long.
– Due to my shifting revision dates, it’s almost guaranteed that WHISPERTOWN
will not be done in time to make a Summer 2013 release. And Fall 2013 is a
tough time to break out debut authors. Winter (Early) 2014 is looking like my
window. This is the part where I have to remember the prior month’s lesson.
Everything happens when it’s supposed to.
revision deadline is 07/31/2012. I get my attitude in check and get to work.
I get a
new day job. It’s a blessing. Not even unemployed a full 2 months. A bigger
blessing, because the first few weeks at a new job can be slow with orientation
stuff, I’m off by 5 every day with plenty of time and energy to rewrite
WHISPERTOWN in the evenings.
job is picking up, but I still beat my WHISPERTOWN deadline by 2 days. It’s a
to brainstorm title ideas. WHISPERTOWN is going away. I’m not surprised. Based
on previous conversations over the last 14 months, I know HarperCollins wants
to call the book something else. I’m cool with that, though I can’t seem to
come up with anything that POPS. I find I have a knack for truly terrible
titles, though, to the point that my wife and I make a game of inventing bad
ones. No, I’m not sharing.
editor comes up with a title that is both obvious and perfect…I’m ashamed I
didn’t think of it myself. WHISPERTOWN becomes FAKE ID. And, she’s pleased with
my revision. Great news. Of course there’s still some tweaking to do, which is
customary, but no more complete overhauls, which is splendid.
there may be an opportunity to write a prequel short story for FAKE ID, start
thinking of some ideas. The day job is
hectic all-consuming this month,
but there’s always time to plot during coffee breaks!
month just started, and I’m sharing my story with you great folks. Life’s good
and I’m thankful for you and Aimee. The journey continues…for all us.
questions? Let me know at either of my social media stops:
Thanks for stopping by, Lamar - and I can't wait to see FAKE ID on my bookshelf! (Please make sure Seeking the Write Life is part of your launch tour... please?!)
Your Turn: Does Lamar's story include any surprises for you? If you have any questions for Lamar, you can ask them in the comments below, or on his twitter / facebook profiles.