It’s time to panic now

Last July, I sent my latest manuscript to a literary agent. She responded that she enjoyed the beginning of the book, but around the middle it started to fall apart. She suggested I send it to a professional editor to see what it would take to fix the manuscript. Then, after I fixed it, I could resubmit it to her.

I followed her advice. I sent my manuscript to Andy Meisenheimer at The Editorial Department, along with a bucket of cash, and waited the requisite four weeks. (Side note: I met Andy at an ACFW conference several years ago, where he read the opening pages of my fantasy novel, and he gave me excellent advice back then. So I trusted him completely with my new romantic suspense novel.)

Andy’s response came last night, just as I was headed out to my son’s baseball game. I was extremely surprised to find that it was only six pages long. I figured a bucket of cash ought to get me closer to 25 pages of notes. But seeing it was only six made me think the book wasn’t so bad. Maybe he couldn’t find that much to comment on. Maybe all it I needed was to clean up some lagging scenes, tighten a bit of description, and flesh out a major character a bit more.

Then I read what he wrote. He thought my ideas were good, my dialogue clever, my main character well-rounded. BUT. He found a major problem in the plot. Then he went on to describe what went wrong and how to fix it. I think I went into shock, because his words quit registering in my brain somewhere around page 2 of the comments. Instead of fighting my addled thought processes, I printed the file and took it with me to the ball game. 

I read Andy’s comments. Twice. They weren’t all sunshine and polish. My poor manuscript needs a TON of work. Not just cleaning up a few scenes. Not just removing pesky adverbs that managed to hide from the delete key during the first several read-throughs. I’m talking *major restructuring* to heighten tension, create uncertainty, and foster sympathy for the protagonist. I’m talking about altering the theme that inspired the novel in the first place. I’m talking about a fifty percent re-write. Or more.

Wow. Andy did an awesome job on his critique, but I’m thoroughly overwhelmed by the amount of work ahead of me. You know the five stages of writing: excitement, delusions of grandeur, panic, compulsive eating, and delivery. I’m deeply entrenched in panic mode. I get to have a half-hour chat with Andy as part of the services I paid for, so I need to make up a list of questions–intelligent, coherent questions–regarding his critique. I may need several days and copious amounts of chocolate and coffee before I fight my way out of panic mode. 

For what it’s worth, I’d send another novel to Andy for critique. Only next time, I know to brace myself more firmly.

-Sonja
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