Last week, Sarah Martinez and I brought to you a peek behind the editing/revising curtain of Sex and Death in the American Novel. Here’s a final compilation of all the posts, from Sarah’s first draft to what made it into the book.
I got the idea for doing this series simply because a lot of people were asking me what my contribution to the book was. But I got a lot more from this exercise than letting our lovely readers see what went on. This was the first time I’ve looked over comments I made on a manuscript a year or so later. There were a couple that I wouldn’t have known what they really meant except for the fact that I remember writing them and I remember what I meant. For example, at one point I commented that a transition seemed “out of rhetorical level.” I actually remember (vaguely) writing this and that I meant the sentence suddenly sounded too formal in comparison to the rest of Vivi’s voice. But reading that comment a year later, I wouldn’t have known what I meant if I didn’t remember. (This is getting confusing.) In other words, I should have said, “This sounds out of rhetorical level: try phrasing it this way or that way.”
The exercise was also a good reminder that just because I can see a problem in a manuscript, that doesn’t mean the author agrees. In the case of this scene, Sarah and I had quite a debate about whether a conventional scene was necessary here or not. But because she was willing to try revising towards what I suggested and because I could now take into consideration the theme/tone she was going for, we were able to get to a scene that I think works really well without sacrificing too much of the formlessness Sarah wanted.
But what do you readers think?
I was truly honored to get the chance to work with Sarah on this really interesting, challenging, and entertaining novel. Here’s to a long editor-author partnership!