If you've been following me here on this blog (somewhat unlikely since it's been all of four months!), then you'll know that I just recently (October) got my very first agent for my very first book, Deity Six. But what I haven't told you yet is what the editing process has been like so far. You may be aware that some agents like to take on a manuscript fully formed, no adjustments needed. While others like to leave their own stamp on it and help the author draft it into something bigger...or smaller, possibly even better.
This latter part is what's going on with me right now.
Things and stuff...they're going down:
One of the first things that happened after signing with my agent was a phone call. If you look online you'll see this is pretty standard protocol. If you haven't met your agent in person, the next best thing is obviously the sound of their dulcet tones over a grainy cellular network while you constantly question if they actually said what you think they said. This can simply be about introductions. "Hello. How are you? Nice to sort of meet you. You sound different then I thought you would have based on your picture." That sort of thing since it's likely you've never met in person. But with me, since I had met my agent at a writer's conference, the phone call we had was about jumping right into work. Deity Six, if you don't mind me self-indulgently plugging my own work multiple annoying times in one short post, and about the myriad things wrong with my baby. If you want to call it a baby. Really just an amorphous blob of too many words and misplaced modifiers as the author (me) tried sounding more intelligent than he/she/it actually is.
With Deity Six the main point of contention was the fact that the story didn't have an entirely clear genre/sub-genre that it fit when I originally wrote it. It was kind of YA because of the character's ages, but I didn't really think of it as such while I was writing. And it wasn't until later that I realized, yes, in fact, it is YA. So when my agent wanted to represent it, it was in that category...Young Adult Science Fiction.
And this is where the real work began. Taking something that kind of fit one category, and trimming down the more adult elements, all the while beefing up those elements which were YA and adding even more of them to make it fit squarely in Young Adult. The lesson to be had here: Know your genre and your target audience. And that will make it easier to tailor your story and your characters to fit what appeals to them.
Does that mean you should change your story to fit what's popular? No. Let me say that again...NO! Write the story you want to write. But knowing where your story fits and who it appeals to will not only help you to sell to the market best suited to it, it will help you to better engage your readers. End of side rant.
Similar to round one, this next pass through was about continuing to make changes to keep the story firmly in the genre it needs to be in. But there's more to it as well. Now you start getting into more specific refinement. Are the characters fleshed out? Are the story elements cohesive? How much of what has been written needs to be in the story? Can you add more backstory? Internal dialogue? The answer on all of these things...yes. At this point I removed chunks of chapters, pages and pages at a time because they served no real narrative or plotting purpose. Because filler, like fire, is BAAAAD! All the while I moved on, adding more personality to the characters, giving them uniqueness. I added more backstory and internal conflict, more personalization of the journey from my main character's perspective. Pretty top down stuff, and all of it useful.
The name of the game is refinement. Just like with your own editing of your story, with each pass your job is to make the story better, to make it fit the genre with meaning and authenticity. Only now you have help. Trust your agent. But ultimately this is your story and if something they suggest doesn't make sense to you...don't change it. Or, or even better, talk about it. Discuss. Compromise, without compromising the integrity of your story.
But don't be headstrong or arrogant. Some of the most valuable information you can get is from someone from the outside looking in. Because it's them, not you, that might have just the right perspective to see a problem, or make a change, that you weren't able to see before. And when that happens, your book will be that much that better for it.
Maybe someday soon I'll be able to put up a post about "Editing with an editor," and tell you with some authority what differences there are between that and this. Well, here's to hoping anyway. But until then, Merry Christmas! Or Happy Holidays. Or whatever floats your yule-tide boat.