Susan’s Randoms: The Aneurysm Goes Away Tomorrow

So revision is on my mind this week. Mainly because I’m less than 24 hours away from sending my revisions back to Dutton.  Between the publisher’s post-it’s, my attached yellow sheets re-writing various paragraphs, and multiple colors of penciled edits throughout, I pity the poor copywriter who gets this packet.

I once read on Tess Gerritsen’s site that her copyeditors are amazed with how cleanly she writes. I fear my copyeditors are more like, “It’s another Susan Colebank manuscript? Oh, God. Give her to the new kid.” Why? Because these are the things I just seem to miss until the very last minute that make for some messy, messy edits:

1) Timeless timelines. I try and try to keep the days straight (I even based this last story around Thanksgiving and Christmas to help me out!), but I still get caught with notes like “You say two days later–two days after Thanksgiving is Saturday, not Monday. There’d be no school.” D’oh! Maybe this is WHY I haven’t seen a lot of holidays used in YA books written by writers a lot smarter than I.

2) Lost-at-sea motivations. Reggie has one motivation in the book at first, which drifts off as other things/subplots mess with her, and that motivation sort of flails around and gets pulled under by a Great White. I had to go back and make certain that motivation was highlighted again and again as I revised. Or, as Laurie Halse Anderson wrote on her blog: I tinkered … a lot while revising, trying to find the right places to weave that into the background, and the best times to bring it forth a little louder in the story. Of course, she said she did this BEFORE it went to her publisher. And this is why she’s Laurie Halse Anderson.

3) “This read a lot better six months ago.” Seriously. I thought the manuscript–after about 15 readers–was good to go. I loved it. Now fast forward three weeks ago when I got revisions.

“What’s that smell? It’s like old man farts crossed with toe sweat.”

I open my Fed Ex envelope from Dutton.

“You can’t be what stinks.”

I take a longer whiff. Gag.

“Oh my God. It is you.”

4) When did Reggie start talking like Sarah? Funny how you can get out of your character’s head long enough to make them start talking like their best friend. I’ve heard about best friends adopting the same slang (the clique mentality thing), but in fiction, that ain’t going to fly. Especially if you want to run some tagless dialogue, like so:

“Like, I was so wanting to be there.”

“Like, totally?”

“Like, yeah.”

5) There’s my motif. No, THERE’s my motif. Crap, maybe that back there was my motif. I started out with one motif in the book, but then it segued into something else. And then, as I revised, thinking which one I wanted to part with, I realized I needed both for different reasons. And then I realized, “No wonder I bit my husband’s head off this weekend. I think I’m about to have an aneurysm.”

And, suddenly, I understand why Edgar Allen Poe had his opium and Stephen King had his cocaine during the 80s.




Filed under Susan's Randoms

7 responses to “Susan’s Randoms: The Aneurysm Goes Away Tomorrow

  1. Ugh. I am going to hate copy edits, aren’t I? I have issues with lost at sea motivations too. And toe sweat. Just kidding!! That was a good bit of dialogue though 🙂

  2. Robin Warrior Novelist

    Oh dear. Oh Susan.
    Go rock your baby and smell her sweet baby smell and everything will be okay.

    The worst part is imagining what they (the copyeditors) are saying. I DON’T want to be a fly on the wall. We are hardest on ourselves.

    xo Robin

  3. Amanda Marrone

    Despite your pain, you made me lol!!! I’ve got twenty more pages of copyedits to go through and I’m staying up until they’re done so I can move on to more pleasant things.

  4. Hi chicas,

    Still working on edits, but am momentarily online to post the materials for my new class.

    Angie–You may be the Tess Gerritsen sort of writer, flawless and above reproach, all of your worries for naught.

    Robin–I did enjoy sniffing my baby today. The poor lass has a cold, so I had to stay away from the snotty cheeks, but otherwise, I cuddled and rocked. I don’t even think she knew it was Mommy needing the cuddles and rocks.

    Amanda–I’m glad my pain is your nitric oxide. Although your “Only 20 pages to go” slayed me. I only have 15 pages–after two slow read-throughs and about 20 edits on every page.

    I ain’t kidding, chicas. The copywriter getting this MS is going to HATE me.


  5. I take a longer whiff. Gag.

    “Oh my God. It is you.”

    Ahaha! Er, I mean, sorry for your pain.

  6. Shari–

    Thank you. Thank you very much.

    By the way, the aneurysm left NH at 10 a.m. today on a Fed Ex truck. I think I managed to put enough soap/talcum powder/Car Fresh Scent on the MS to take care of the stink.


  7. Hola, fabulous writers! Loved Susan’s insights on the stink of a first draft – themes are my stench, let me tell you. Am on my second/third/fortieth draft of my latest novel and keep going back to prefect the beginning so I can finish editing the end – always have to have the end come back full-circle, you know? Any advice other than to get my mind out of pantsing and start outlining more?

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