I’ve fallen down on the job, here. My excuses are many and diverse—I’m on vacation, I caught a cold, the Giants are in the NLCS—but I can still say that I’ve kept my priorities straight. I may not have posted here each weekday (my stated goal), but I did spend time every day editing my MSS for the Fallen Cloud Saga re-release. So, there’s that, anyway.
In re-editing the MSS for FC:I-FC:IV, however, I noticed two distinct patterns.
The first pattern I noticed was an increase in my cockiness as an author. This is not a good thing as it led to stupid artifice and ill-thought-out departures from established conventions. I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten over that one, as I’m now correcting all those “artistic decisions.”
The second pattern was a decrease in editorial attention. This, also, is not a good thing. Unfortunately, the two patterns exacerbate each other—the cockier I got, the less my editor cared to work with me, and vice versa. It’s a chicken-and-egg argument, determining which came first, but I also know that by the time we got to FC:IV, the publisher had decided my numbers weren’t good enough and closed the book on the series, my editor was looking for a career change, and I was the last one to know any of it.
So, what does increased editorial disinterest look like?
For the series re-release, I’m re-editing FC:I thru FC:IV, line by line. My starting point for each is the final version of the MS, i.e., the version in which I’ve made all suggested editorial changes, and it goes to copy-editing. My editor always sent me a “revision letter,” in which she detailed all the changes she thought the book needed. These changes ranged from misspellings/typos, up to large, structural revisions. I, of course, was free to take or discard these (though I had to defend my decisions) but 90% of the time I took the advice.
As a result, the final versions of my MSS are very clean, and very close to the printed edition. (Ironically, most typos in my books are those introduced during the typesetting process.)
As I re-edited FC:I through to FC:IV, I found more and more errors in the final version. In contrast, my revision letters got shorter and shorter, and what revisions there were had a smaller and smaller scope. At the time, in my cock-sure attitude, I figured that this was because of my increasing prowess as a writer. (See the self-reinforcing cycle, here?) But it wasn’t.
At the end, FC:IV went to typesetting with a ton of errors, lots of clumsy sentences (many of which made it into print), and a slap-dash, going-through-the-motions attitude. Compounding this diminished attention, all my deadlines got shorter. I had three days to review and return the final copy-edit, and that happened to be over a Labor Day weekend. My editor’s response was, “If you can’t get it back in time, we’ll just go to press with the errors.”
If there’s a lesson to be learned, here, I think it’s to rein in the ego. There’s nothing I can do if an editor/publisher decides my sales don’t justify another contract. That’s a pure numbers-game and there are so many factors beyond my control that trying to hit that moving target is futile. But while I have to believe in my story and make it as best as I can, I also have to listen to the advice of others and give that advice the appropriate weight. Doing otherwise is just…cocky.